THE HIDDEN LIVES OF ELEPHANTS

Posted by Vivek Parthasarathi | June 9th, 2016

In their natural environment, elephants are highly social animals who live in multigenerational matriarchal herds. These tight-knit families work cooperatively, defending one another, searching for food, and caring for offspring—even receiving help from “babysitters” within the herd.Elephants talk among themselves, make group decisions, and celebrate achievements and momentous occasions.

A Lesson in Empathy

Elephants have elaborate mourning rituals, often remaining by their dead companions for days on end. Groups of elephants have been observed stroking and examining the bones of family members, offering condolences to one another, and “burying” the body with twigs and grass. Even those who were not closely related to the fallen animal will make long pilgrimages to visit the grave site.Just as humans visit the graves of their lost ones, elephants continue to visit and pay homage to the bones of their family members for years to come. When an elephant was killed by a train in eastern India, 15 elephants returned to the tracks for days on end, in what appeared to be a mourning ritual or a distraught attempt to avenge the death of their family member.

 

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