Do Elephants Think We’re Cute? (How Do Elephants See Humans?)

People grow a fondness for elephants. They enjoyed being around this mammal, such as feeding and playing with them. People think that elephants see humans the way they perceive cute puppies.

Do elephants think we’re cute? No, elephants do not see humans as cute. Instead, based on studies, these animals sense a feeling of fear when they are near individuals. It is evident especially for elephants in the wild.

There is a misconception between the bond elephants have formed between their caretakers and the idea that humans are cute for them.

The thought that elephants view humans as cute could perhaps be rooted in the behavior of those tamed or captive elephants found in the zoo. These mammals are observed to be used when around people.

This article will discuss facts about how elephants perceive humans and how these mammals feel for them.

How Do Elephants See Humans?

Based on research, elephants, most especially those in the wild, perceive human beings as a threat rather than companions.

They would see humans as harmful and capable of abusing them.

People thought that because elephants have developed a bond between their caretakers, they see humans as safe species roaming around their environment.

There is a difference in terms of how wild elephants and tamed ones see humans.

Elephants in the zoo or circus obey their trainer or caretaker basically for survival. Since they are fed and treated well there, elephants stick to humans for this apparent reason.

Wild ones perceive humans as their predators, just like lions. It has been due to evolutionary hardwiring to them that makes them think and treat humans that way.

Moreover, the conflicts arising between humans and elephants in some countries make an impact on these mammals.

These species have an extraordinary memory recall associated with their hippocampus, a part of their brain, which is related to their memory and emotions. They could recall the times when human beings killed their herd. Due to this reason, elephants see people as more of a danger.

This feeling of harm makes elephants act aggressively when they see humans around.

One of the findings of a study tells that elephants change their behavior and significantly avoid humans when they encounter danger with them.

Like any other being, these elephants are a social mammal that protects, loves, and nurtures their family members. That is why wild elephants fear humans to that extent.

In the case of elephants being trained at the circus or the zoo, they definitely see humans such as their caretakers as their security.

These feelings of being secured came from the fact that these caretakers appropriately take care of these animals. These elephants would feel safe because they are well provided with the food that they need.

These feelings could be true especially for this group of mammals because they can experience emotions based on studies.

How Do Elephants Think We’re Cute?

Elephants don’t think humans are cute, perhaps the way they initiate actions and the way they behave around individuals.

This misconception came from tamed elephants found in the circus or zoos. It is where human presence is directly linked with the presence of foods nearby.

This human presence signifies the survivability of elephants that are fed directly by its caretaker. Also, most of these tamed elephants develop special bonds with their favorite caretaker. It is an inter-species interaction that is similar to human interactions with little pups.

Elephants value this connection with their caretakers and obey their trainers since they are respected, fed well, and cared for.

In one study, elephants usually respond to trunk out and trunk to human behavior when there are guests in the zoo. This behavior happens when the guest or tourist feeds the elephant.

elephant and human

How Do Elephants Feel When They See Humans?

These mammals are known to be charming, loving, and empathic behavior not only towards their species but as well as to human beings.

Technically, elephants in the wild and captivity or those tamed at the zoo may feel differently when they see and encounter human beings. Their experiences would also tell a lot about how they would feel when they see people.

Apparently, they used to see human beings as harmful in the wild, capable of hurting their calves and even killing their herd. 

You can’t blame elephants for feeling this way. This fear can be rooted in its ancestor’s history of being culled by human beings.

This perception creates a feeling of fear in humans. There are actually reports where these mammals voluntarily avoid human villages or roaming nearby their crops.

But because of human beings invading their natural habitat, elephants are forced to live near humans.

On the bright side, they are brilliant animals; they could even identify languages that also impact the way they feel towards humans.

They can distinguish a person’s voice if it is more likely to pose a danger to them. The moment elephants feel that way, they immediately resort to defensive mode.

There are also cases where elephants feel safer around humans than being with conspecifics. It is evident in one study about elephant-initiated interaction with humans.

There is a study that shows that elephants referred to humans as their haven. These mammals view humans as a source of their safety. It makes them less susceptible to stress factors when there is the presence of human beings around them.

Also, these elephants feel empathy and altruism when they see humans in need or distress.

There are cases recorded in places like India where elephants exhibited altruistic behavior when they see an individual in need. These elephants were observed helping locals lift a log by following a truck. Then elephants would place these logs into the holes which had been dig.


In summary, it is not clear yet how elephants see humans. The way they perceive people is not easy, for its behavior may be unpredictable at times. 

Wild elephants indeed differ from the tamed ones when it comes to their feelings toward human beings.

But what is clear now is that elephants are threatened by human existence. Just like any other mammal on earth, they deserve to live in a free and safe environment.

These elephants should not see humans as a threat, but instead, both species should live in a harmonious environment.

It is just a misconception that humans are seen as cute by this giant creature. In fact, they see humans the same as their predators.

Nowadays, villagers are invading the natural habitats of these wild elephants. These animals are living within the proximity of humans. Thus, it creates more fear for them and most especially for this humongous animal’s family members.

Nevertheless, a safer environment for both human beings and elephants to live and coexist should be fostered.


Image credits – Canva

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I'm David, and safari has been my passion since I was a little boy - I grew up in South Africa. I love to help spread knowledge about safari, so let me know if you have any questions. Read more