Self-directed touching of the face (mouth, ear, trunk, tusk or temporal gland) or chest, with the fingers or tip of the trunk. Very often in the context of an interaction with another elephant, but may be seen in any context where an elephant appears uneasy or stressed. Likely analogous to the way we might scratch our head or rub our face when feeling socially or otherwise uncomfortable or unsure.

References: Kühme 1961; Poole 1999a; Poole & Granli 2003; Kahl & Armstrong 2000 [Touch-Face]. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Affiliative, Ambivalent, Conflict & Confrontation, Social Play, Vigilance


Context: Affiliative (1)

A young male greets a larger young male and then Touch-Self. The older male walks on through a group of elephants immediately after the greeting and Touches-Self twice. It is not clear whether these incidents are related as the male touched him on the other side of his face. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Affiliative (2)

Adolescent female Ileana of the I family comes over to the C family and seems to want to see Celina’s new baby. Ileana reaches Trunk-to-Mouth to Celina. Her doing so seems to concern adult female gf0004 of the C family who reaches back over in a slightly hostile manner, perhaps? After touching Celina's mouth, Ileana reaches back to touch her infant Trunk-to-Mouth. And again touches the infant Trunk-to-Face to which the infant reciprocates by reaching her trunk toward Ileana. Ileana seems to Contemplate and then reaches her Trunk-to-Mouth to Celina and then Contemplates again and Touch-Self. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)