New research discovers that Asian elephants, like their African cousins, appear to grieve for their dead, occasionally even holding up their lost newborns in their trunks for days or weeks.
Whether elephants comprehend death similarly to humans do is unknown and possibly unknowable. But Asian elephants are civil creatures, and the recent research reinforces the evidence that they encounter some emotional answers when they forfeit one of their own.
“Understanding elephants’ response to death might have some far-reaching effects on their conservation,” study co-authors Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and Nachiketha Sharma the Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study, composed to Live Science through an email. “We have personally observed that when people witness an elephant responding to dead kin, there will be some sense of relatedness, compassion, and empathy towards the species.
Therefore, anything which instantly connects people might pave the way for coexistence in elephant range countries.”
“They can be 100 feet [30 meters] away from you, and you might not see them because the forest is so dense,” told Brian Aucone, the senior vice president for life sciences at the Denver Zoo, who was not engaged in the new study…
“I think they’re holding on and trying to grasp what has happened, and there’s something happening there with their interaction with their offspring, just like it would be with us,” Aucone explained of the behavior.