Wild Fact #992 – A Death in the Family

They say that an elephant never forgets.  Does this mean that elephants are more intelligent than I am since I forget things all the time? I would hope that this is not the case since I don’t know many elephants that have their own blog; however, elephants may be one of the smartest animals aside from humans.  We know chimpanzees and dolphins are intelligent and I would think it is safe to put elephants in that same class.  Elephants have a very large brain and much like humans actually have to learn how to survive unlike most animals which are born with those instincts.

Over the years, elephants have exhibited behaviours closely related with what we have described as grief, compassion, sense of humour, and altruism to name a few.  I would like to focus on the grief aspect since elephants are the only other animal besides humans to have a death ritual.  No, they don’t spend $10 000 on a funeral but their ritual is just as impressive.  It has been documented that after an elephant dies, the rest of the family group will gather around the body for two days, only leaving to get food and water.  The young elephants have been known to weep but generally they will stand quietly around the body.  Often the family will try to bury the body with sticks, sand, leaves, etc. On a side note, elephants have been known to bury dead or sleeping humans as well so be sure that you are well rested when in elephant country. I can’t say for sure that elephants are exhibiting the same type of feelings that humans have around death but it definitely appears that elephants have the capacity for a variety of emotions.

If you are interested in more on elephants then make sure you pick up this great story on DVD:

Did you find this Wild Fact interesting?  Did you already know about this?  Do you have an idea for future Wild Facts? Let me know in the comment form!

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