Last week on Boing Boing tv, we released a BBtv WORLD episode with a visit to Pendjari nature preserve in Benin (West Africa). I got close (a little too close) to a herd of beautiful elephants. Here's that post, and direct MP4 link here. When you watch that BBtv clip, pay attention to the bit right after the 1:34ish mark where the mommy elephant raises her trunk and gestures at us. I didn't know this, but that's a kind of greeting, it's the elephant initiating communication.
Marilyn Terrell at National Geographic's Intelligent Travel blog (who did a post about our piece) explained that to me, and pointed me to this AMAZING video in East Africa with photographer Michael Nichols, embedded above. He talks about how he tries to capture the complexity and intelligence of these amazing beasts on film. And he "talks" back to the elephants by returning their trunk "gang signs" with his hand and arm, kind of simulating a trunk reply. Just watch it, you'll get it. It's great.
Also see this feature article about Samburu elephants by David Quammen, and a photo gallery by Michael Nichols. Stunning stuff.
Below, two males wrassle at the watering hole, photographed by Nichols for National Geographic. "Such physical contact can be subtly nuanced along a spectrum from bonding to roughhousing to real combat. Harmless scuffles among juveniles help inform later, more serious interactions by which adults settle their disputes."