Play Is Serious Business for Elephants

Tue, 20 Jul 2021 06:30:00 GMT
Scientific American - Science

Young dogs, apes and other animals develop skills needed to survive and reproduce

For the youngsters in the group more families meant more opportunities to play.

During these daily visits, I always learn a new lesson about elephants-particularly when they play.

These often chaotic observations inspired me to want to understand more about how animals play and what advantages this behavior might confer, not just to elephants but to all social creatures, including humans.

People tend to think of play as an activity one engages in at one's leisure, outside of learning important skills needed to succeed later in life, such as hunting, mating, and evading predators.

Engaging in play allows animals to experiment with new behaviors in a protected environment without dangerous consequences.

The third main category of play is object play, which incorporates objects from the environment into the cavorting.

In captivity, elephants enjoy playing with balls or hauling inner tubes around for fun.

One of these, game playing, combines social, locomotive and object play.

Marc Bekoff of the University of Colorado Boulder and his colleagues have proposed that play increases the versatility of movements used to recover from a loss of balance and enhances the ability of the player to cope with unexpected stressful situations.

Play appeared to be an important contributing factor in reuniting the family.