Plotnik and renowned animal behavior expert Frans de Waal of Emory University recently teamed up to study elephant empathy. On a monthly basis between the spring of 2008 and 2009 they observed 26 Asian elephants at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, looking for signs of what researchers call “consolation.” Many animals are capable “reconciliation”—making up after a tussle. Far fewer animals display true consolation: when a bystander goes out of his or her way to comfort the victim of a fight or an individual that is disturbed for some reason. On dozens of occasions Plotnik and de Waal saw elephants consoling one another. A perturbed elephant often perks up its ears and tail and squeals, roars or trumpets. Over the course of the study, many elephants behaved in this way, because of an altercation, because they were spooked by something—such as a helicopter or dog—or for an unknown cause. When other elephants recognized these signs of anxiety, they rushed to the upset animal’s side, chirping softly and stroking their fellow elephant’s head and genitals. Sometimes the elephants put their trunks in one another’s mouths—a sign of trust because doing so risks being bitten.
Proboscideans experienced several evolutionary trends, such as an increase in size, which led to many giant species that stood up to 5 m (16 ft) tall.  As with other megaherbivores , including the extinct sauropod dinosaurs , the large size of elephants likely developed to allow them to survive on vegetation with low nutritional value.  Their limbs grew longer and the feet shorter and broader.  The feet were originally plantigrade and developed into a digitigrade stance with cushion pads and the sesamoid bone providing support.  Early proboscideans developed longer mandibles and smaller craniums while more derived ones developed shorter mandibles, which shifted the head's centre of gravity . The skull grew larger, especially the cranium, while the neck shortened to provide better support for the skull. The increase in size led to the development and elongation of the mobile trunk to provide reach. The number of premolars , incisors and canines decreased.  The cheek teeth (molars and premolars) became larger and more specialized, especially after elephants started to switch from C3-plants to C4-grasses , which caused their teeth to undergo a three-fold increase in teeth height as well as substantial multiplication of lamellae after about five million years ago. Only in the last million years or so did they return to a diet mainly consisting of C3 trees and shrubs.   The upper second incisors grew into tusks, which varied in shape from straight, to curved (either upward or downward), to spiralled, depending on the species. Some proboscideans developed tusks from their lower incisors.  Elephants retain certain features from their aquatic ancestry, such as their middle ear anatomy and the internal testes of the males. 
Though primarily based in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya, we have projects across Africa focussing on radio-tracking elephants and community conservation carrying out rigorous studies of elephants, including elephant collaring and more recently, sophisticated elephant tracking techniques. The mission of STE is to secure a future for elephants in harmony with people. Our rationale is to plan conservation of elephants and their environment through research on movements, ecology, and behaviour, and through community programmes, and to look at conservation from an elephant’s point of view which we do through our projects.