Grieving Mother Elephant Carries Body of Dead Calf for Two Days

A mother elephant who has been carrying the body of her dead calf for two days seems to be grieving.

The infant elephant was born on October 27, 2022, to the Huab River elephant herd known as Rosy’s Group. The infant found it challenging to keep pace with the herd as they traveled great distances in search of drinking water from the very beginning. The baby was still there on the 28th, but the guides believe she must have died that evening. The morning of the 29th was when the heartbreaking picture that has been going viral on social media was taken.

Twyfelfontein Country Lodge claims that the mother only occasionally set the calf down to eat. After two days, the herd as a whole-including the grieving mother-moved on after the matriarch chased her away from the body of the deceased.

According to Colorado College professor Bob Jacobs, elephants and other mammals share the same fundamental neural structures as people. Jacob’s field is neuroanatomy and non-human animal communication.

Just Like Humans

Jacobs said that although different species’ nervous systems exhibit distinct specialization, brains have evolved to be highly conserved and to appear to operate according to the same fundamental neurofunctional principles. He continued by saying that elephants’ corticolimbic brain regions, which are involved in emotions, are analogs to those found in humans.

to Jacobs, although it is impossible to know what exactly an elephant’s thoughts or emotions are, it is reasonable to think that mammals experience emotions that are according to those that humans would experience in the same situation.

John Poulsen, an ecologist as well as an elephant conservationist from North Carolina’s Duke University in Durham, said that although all three species of elephant show interest in their deceased conspecifics, only Asian and Savanna elephants have been observed carrying a dead calf.

These actions, as well as similar ones in primates, appear to refute the notion that only people are aware of of death. The mechanism or motivation behind carrying dead calves is not yet fully understood though, Newsbreak reports.

Read also: Elephant Stabbed Owner to Death After Being Forced to Work in 89-Degree Heat

Elephants Understanding Death

Poulsen asserts that the mother’s grieving behavior is probably caused by a combination of the elephants’ long gestation, which makes them deeply attached to their young, and their large brains and intelligence, which enable some understanding of death.

Poulsen said that, first, it appears that creatures have powerful cognitive abilities. Second, the behavior is probably influenced by the lengthy gestation and close bond between the mother and calf.

The mother-calf relationship continues until the calf can survive on its own. This sustained period fosters the development of the young’s bonds and social interaction with the mother as well as other family members, the author continued. Carrying a dead calf could be motivated by maternal instinct or mother-calf bonding, The Outdoors reports.

The calf-carrying behavior, though, might not be an indication of her grief away deceased child but rather a lack of comprehension that it has passed.

Poulsen points out that, however, he believes this behavior is driven by grief given other behavior patterns such as repeatedly going back to conspecific lifeless bodies and carrying elephant bones.

Jason N. Bruck, a biology professor from Stephen F. Austin State University, said that she might not be able to recognize that her calf is dead in this situation of grief or that her drive might be too strong. Some people frequently interpret this behavior as grief.

Bruck continued to say in an interview with Newsweek that 95 million years of evolution have separated human minds from those of other species and made it impossible to know exactly what they are thinking, humans, have a strong urge to anthropomorphize other species.

Related article: Mourning Elephant Mother Carries Dead Calf in Weeks-Long Ritual

© 2022 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.