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Elephants Mourning

January 25, 2012

I found this photograph and related story rather touching. A baby elephant (3 month of age) named Lola shown in the below died shortly before the photograph was taken. Suffering heart complications, she died in the preparatory stages before her scheduled surgery.

Taking place at Hellabrunn Zoo, Munich, the zookeepers decided to return the body to the enclosure so that her mother Panang could see her passed-away child and say her goodbyes. Eventually after the mother and the rest of the herd touched the baby elephant with the trunks, the zookeepers took away the lifeless body.

It astounds me every time I see these sorts of higher order emotional responses from animals. Makes me appreciate them more.


Elephants paying homage

There are many anecdotal stories of elephants mourning over their deceased herd members. The scientific studies that have been done on the subject demonstrate that elephants, apart from humans are the only species that have recognizable rituals around death. They show a lot of interest in bones from previously deceased elephants as well as visiting and standing-by their fallen kin.

A paragraph from an article demonstrates one of a number of experiments done on elephant cognition:

In one experiment, 17 families were presented with skulls from an elephant, a buffalo and a rhinoceros. The elephants showed considerable interest in the skull of their own species. They did this by smelling and touching individual objects with their trunks and occasionally touching them lightly with their feet.


Lola story

Wikipedia entry on elephant death rituals

Science research into elephant behaivour

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alen permalink
    February 26, 2012 5:24 pm

    I think you should look into corvids 😉

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