This Is What Happens When an Elephant Hears an Air Raid Siren

Jul 09, 2014 at 8:18 PM ET

As a rocket siren echoed through Israel’s Wildlife Safari park earlier today, something unexpected was caught on camera. The adult elephants seemed to grasp meaning of the siren and surrounded their young, protecting them with their own bodies.

Alright, sure, elephants often respond to unusual events and surprising noises with bellowing and squeaking. And yes, anxious, attacking and attacked elephants also trumpet, as one of the adults in the video does before heading towards the little ones. And as with any animal, if a threat is sensed, the kids come first.

Regardless of the fact that it’s obvious animal instinct in action, people in Israel, living under the threat of rockets, are going nuts over the short video captured by a zookeeper, showing elephants supposedly sharing the concerns of the population at large. After the siren goes off, the elephants circle their young and stand guard, and at the 1:50 mark, a loud boom is clearly heard, indicating either a rocket fall or an interception. Unlike other squealing (read: cowardly) animals that can be heard in the background, the elephants remain relatively unfazed.

Adding to decades of anecdotes about elephant memory and intelligence, scientists have adduced solid evidence that elephants are just as brilliant as they are big. They are proficient tool users and cooperative problem solvers. They are highly empathic, comforting one another when upset and crying when separated from their family members. They likely even have a sense of self.

While they’re super smart, on an animal spectrum, it’s clear that elephants couldn’t possibly grasp the meaning of the noises, the concept of rockets, nor the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics. Nevertheless, plenty of people are anthropomorphizing the animals, projecting their own feelings about the situation onto the nervous pachyderms.

“Even they protect their babies. …How sad to see that animals can be better beings than people.”

“Oy poor them. …How sad to see them afraid, too. …The hatred between people affects all beings.”

“Even the elephants are sick of the rockets.”

“I love elephants. …Such amazing and unique animals! Humane. And the cries of the other animals when the rocket fell are heartbreaking. It just makes me hate Hamas seven times more.”

They don’t call it an elephant memory for nothing. Last year they were still a little confused from the [sirens], now it’s clear they understand their meaning. …To our joy and our sadness. Too bad they don’t have better shelter.”

“Cute, more humane than the enemy.”

“Like every good Polish mother.”

Sagit Horotwiz, Ramat Gan Safari spokesperson, explains her uploaded video: “Our elephants heard the siren, trumpeted and immediately gathered. They wrapped up little Latangy and Lalana and surrounded them, protecting them. After everything was over, they went back to their normal routines.”