The elephant donated to South Korea by the Sri Lankan government in 2010 got quite a fright when her baby fell into a pool at the Grand Park Zoo in Seoul, South Korea.
The footage recorded by the zoo shows the curious one-year-old elephant – christened ‘Korilanka’ to mark the ties between Sri Lanka and Korea – getting close to the water’s edge and accidentally tumbling in.
Fortunately, the baby elephant was not actually drowning, says Joyce Poole, a National Geographic explorer and co-founder of Elephant Voices: “When elephants swim, they put their trunk out of the water and continue to breathe.”
In the video, the National Geographic reports, the baby can be seen doing this snorkeling behavior—meaning it was in no imminent danger.
Even though the family knows the baby can swim, they are still clearly alarmed it has fallen in without meaning to, as evidenced by their quickly flapping ears, says Poole.
Even the elephant in the background of the video, separated by a fence, starts rapidly pacing back and forth.
“Elephants are drama queens, especially the females. If anything kind of dramatic events happens in the family, it is cause for great excitement,” Poole explains. “It is part of the bonding process.”
The uniquely close family bonds and capacity for empathy of elephants is evident in this display. Only one of the female elephants that helps the baby is its parent, the mother. The other larger, older elephant that springs into action to help,a 36-year-old, is a bonded family member that gets just as worried about the infant as its own mother.
National Geographic points out that in the wild, the older female elephant would likely be a grandmother or aunt of the baby, but in captivity, unrelated elephants are housed together and still form close bonds.
In the video, the two bonded females are clearly close as they coordinate to help the baby out of the water and back to the safety of dry land, the National Geographic reports.
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