Elephants Mourn and Feel as Deeply as Us
Wild elephants can live up to 65 years of age if they are not poached or hunted before that — and it is worth noting here that captive zoo elephants often die much earlier for obvious reasons. During their lifetimes, my guide James Kydd told me, elephants, like humans, build an existence rich in social wellbeing. Love and kindness are amplified: their families are big and elaborate, complete with grandmothers and aunts, cousins and siblings. When any family member dies, they are mourned deeply by their herd. The elephant’s family will often recognize, and linger with, the remains of an elephant they once knew. In some cases, they have been known to cover the bodies of a family member with mud and leaves.
We humans like to think we are the only ones capable of displaying a complex range of emotions and having meaningful relationships. But if my time in the Okavango Delta in Botswana has shown me anything, it is that we need to have more humility about our place in the natural world and pare down our perceived sense of superiority. We might act like we’re at the top of the pecking order, but our survival hinges on understanding that we are just one small link connected to many other links in this universal chain that is in constant reciprocal flow.
When will we learn this simple message?