Standing or walking away while looking back over the shoulder. As an elephant Looks-Back it may flatten an ear against its body and turn its head in order to see what is behind it. This behavior is observed in numerous contexts.

In Aggressive contexts by dominant individual Look-Back is a threat (as in ‘Watch it - I can see you!’). In a Submissive context a subordinate individual typically Looks-Back when retreating from an aggressive elephant.

In Vigilance and Avoidance contexts, similarly, by high ranking elephant engaged in Rear-Guard (‘Watch out, I have my eye on you!’) or by retreating fearful elephants to monitor the location of a perceived threat. In a Calf Protection and Reassurance context during the Shepherding and Guiding of infants, mothers and allomothers Look-Back to see whether an infant is following or needs care or assistance. In a Courtship context an estrus female will Look-Back to monitor the presence, proximity and activity of pursuing or Guarding males. In a Space Movement and Leadership context individuals Look-Back when Waiting for or Guiding others, to see whether they are following. For example, Look-Back may be observed during the Let’s-Go-Stance.

References: Douglas-Hamilton 1972: ch 6, 139; Poole 1996: 41; Poole 1987a; Poole 1989a; Poole 1999a; Kahl & Armstrong 2000; Poole & Granli 2003; Poole & Granli 2004; Poole & Granli 2011. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Aggressive, Attentive, Avoidance, Calf Reassurance & Protection, Coalition Building, Movement, Space & Leadership, Submissive, Vigilance


Context: Avoidance (1)

Two small adult males - one is feeding while the other is apprehensive about us and stands facing away, ready to depart. He Looks-Back from one side to the other watching us. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Avoidance (2)

Iphegenia, gf0046, has just Charged a tourist vehicle and then Bunched together with her family, Standing-Tall. Now she decides to lead her family away. She initiates a Full-Retreat, pausing to Look-Back to keep an eye on the perceived threat. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Avoidance (3)

Emilie, gf0161, initiates a Full-Retreat with her calves. Note how she Looks-Back from side to side to keep the perceived threat in view. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Avoidance (4)

Emilie, gf0161, stands with her calves facing away from the filmmakers. She Looks-Back over her shoulders as she contemplates what to do. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Avoidance (5)

Emilie, gf0161, has a calf that has been severely wounded by a snare and can barely walk. She is very wary of our presence and begins to Retreat-From us. Notice how she turns to Look-Back to keep her eye on us as she moves away. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Avoidance (6)

A medium sized male is watching Esau approach and when he turns away he notices that one of us is outside the vehicle. He Looks-At him, Standing-Tall, and then turns and Runs-Away Looking-Back. Elephants in Amboseli are very tolerant of vehicles but not people on foot. (Amboseli, Kenya)