Elephants are one of the most majestic creatures on Earth, and one of the few capable of living for long years. These creatures are also known for their memory, and for the amount of times they have been killed by poachers for their ivory.
However, no one knew for sure if elephants are capable of mourning their dead, but we could finally come to a conclusion after the release of a recent video. The video, made exclusively for National Geographic, shows elephants from several clans coming together to inspect the body of one of their dead.
The dead elephant in question is an elephant known as Queen Victoria. She was allegedly born in 1958, and died in 2013 at the age of 55. Her death was of natural causes, which is a luck within itself because poachers usually target the older elephants in Africa.
The video was shot by Shifra Goldenberg, a Colorado State University doctoral student. It shows elephants inspecting the body just three weeks after the death of Queen Victoria. As expected, the body is not in any good condition. The flesh is mostly gone due to predators, and it's in a decomposition state.
Still, that did not stop elephants from placing their trunks inside the carcass among other things. It would seem as if they were mourning her death, but this is not something researchers are sure of right now.
The video adds to the idea that elephants are emotional creatures. It also adds to the complexity of these animals, and no doubt researchers will be trying for years to fully understand what these actions mean.
Elephants are known for being social instead of being loners. An elephant alone will find it difficult to survive in the wild due to lack of protection from the group. Now, due to their big brains, it's possible elephants could develop a way to bond with each other in ways we have yet to understand.
"What the family was doing was interesting, but what her non-relatives were doing is also important," Goldenberg says. "You see their investigation of the body. You see calves walking past and smelling it. It is amazing to see that level of fascination. Her family was distressed that she wasn't getting up. But the larger population also was interested in her death."
We'd love to learn more about the lives of elephants and whether or not they do feel emotion for relatives who have passed on. We hope this video can shed some light on the situation, because it could also mean other animals might have the capacity to feel the same way.
Photo: Megan Coughlin | Flickr