An elephants' funeral
An elephant dies! But not because of old age or a desease. The puzzling truth is a teenage female tusked to death by another elephant along the sand river at Kirkman’s Kamp. Tonnes of meat dry in the sun until vultures spot the dead giant and eventually a pride of four lionesses and two big male lions smell the carcass and beginn their feast (see Paul Steyn). That’s what we knew about the elephant as we arrived this late morning at the sighting. The sight became emotional as we speculated about the elephants death and the impact it would have on the heard, maybe the mother, left behind. We all heard before about the story of elephants that might be able to know about the existance of death and their ability to feel for their herd members. That elephants pick up bones, touching and smelling them, is registered before. We were about to find proof. In a distance we spotted a big female elephant that was making her way through a thicket straight towards the carcass. The lions watched her and without even giving a growl moved of in the nearby shade. The matriarch approached closer. Was it the mother of the teenage elephant or the elephant that was responsible for the youngsters’ death? She put up her strong trunk, sniffing the air, walking silently past the carcass, circling it. Another elephant appeared in a distance and another and another. A whole herd, young and old, trunks up in the air moved past the dead of their kind. The funeral began. At least five times the herd of about twenty elephants circled around. Then the young members moved away. The older elephants touched the carcass gently, sniffing it. The noise was incredible. As if they would say goodbye to a lost member, they snorted, a noise I had never heard from elephants before. They seemed to cry in their long ceremony. Now each adult would step with a youngster towards the carcass, leaning their trunk onto the dead animal in perception. We watched them quietly. We don’t really know the reason of this herd of elephants approaching the carcass. Were they just inquisitive as stumbling across the scene??? Or were they here on purpose? To say goodbye to a member of their family. Maybe there was that one elephant that felt guilty about shortening the live of this youngster. Anyhow, this was the most amazing and emotional sighting we’ve all had in our lives. Thanks Nina and Jasper, Anne and Paul, Mary and Chris for sharing this unforgettable moment with us.
Posted: Kirkman's Kamp by Stephanie Mast, Date: 23 September 2008