An Elephant FuneralJune 3, 2016
For centuries, humans have been completely fascinated by elephants and have spent great lengths of time observing and studying these gentle giants.
Smart, emotional, creative and compassionate, elephants are among the smartest species in the world, and one of the few with the capacity to grieve. On a safari in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, a group of travellers got word of the passing of an elephant bull after a confrontation with another male. Intrigued by the idea of witnessing a famous elephant funeral, they headed towards the site. The scene that they came across was both heart-breaking and touching, as the bull’s herd came to pay their final respects.
Elephants live in close-knit social groups and can live for 70 years, forming strong bonds and memories together over the years. When an elephant in the herd dies, the entire herd mourns its death. Upon seeing the bones or carcass of another elephant, a family will always stop to investigate them. Apart from grief, other emotions can also be observed at an elephant funeral, ranging from denial to sympathy. The ritual generally involves the elephants touching the bones and gently picking them up with their trunks while remaining very quiet, and sometimes they go about covering the body with leaves and grass. If the elephant was from their herd, they may even stay with the body for days or weeks at a time.
The elephant’s capacity for complex emotions and grief is truly unique amongst wild animals and shows an incredible self-awareness of their own existence, making them both relatable and also intriguing. It’s no wonder that they’re always such a firm favourite with our safari guests!
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