Elephant meets another elephant for the first time in 37 years at San Diego Zoo

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

Mila the elephant has been flying solo since she was 4 years old.

The wild-born African pachyderm spent more than 30 years in captivity as New Zealand circus' lone elephant before being transferred to the Frankland Zoo in Auckland, where she was, once again, the only one of her kind.

Her keepers decided she needed company — and launched a campaign to reunite Mila with her kind. Staff and supporters were able to raise $1.5 million to relocate 41-year-old Mila across the ocean to the San Diego Zoo, a place where six other African and Asian elephants called home.

Mila was recently introduced to Mary, the matriarch at her new zoo, after 37 years without any other pachyderm interaction.

Watch their sweet meeting above.

According to the San Diego Zoo's blog:

"In late January, we gave Mila the first opportunity to meet another elephant with limited interaction. We decided that Mary was the best option, given she is a dominant elephant in the herd, is relatively calm, and has a good track record with meeting newcomers."

"Being excited, nervous, scared, aggressive, or submissive were all possibilities we could have expected to observe," said zookeeper Robbie Clark.

"Mary was curious of the newbie while Mila was surprised to find something as big as her on the other side of the wall!"

Keepers hope that Mary will teach Mila how to interact with the other elephants in the herd.

Earlier this year, we saw an emotional reunion between two elephants who had been separated for 22 years.

Another elephant family had a sweet celebration when papa elephant came home.

And last fall, a baby elephant cried for hours when his mother rejected him.

According to a new study out of Thailand, elephants can recognize distress in their peers and offer comfort to one another through reassuring touches and sympathetic chirping sounds.

Over a year, scientists observed 26 elephants of varying ages in at the Elephant Nature Park in the Mae Tang district of Chiang Mai Province, Thailand.

"I was surprised at how consistent the elephants' consolation behaviour was," study researcher Joshua Plotnik, also the founder of the nonprofit Think Elephants International, told National Geographic.

"Whenever an elephant showed signs of distress, a reassuring friend was sure to come console them. The number of times when elephants showed distress without a response from others was very rare."

"There is 50 years of behavioural observational research out of Africa that elephants are highly social, they have empathy and they can think about their social relationships and make specific social decisions that impact themselves and others," Plotnik told Scientific American. "We were able, for the first time, to really confirm this through our work in Thailand."

In 2011, we shared Plotnik's research demonstrating that elephants excel in learning and co-operating, findings that are consistent with his newest study.

During problem-solving tests, the giant mammals exhibited empathy.

"They help others in distress," he told the Associated Press. "They seem in some ways emotionally attached to each other, so you would expect there would be some level of cooperation."