Touching footage shows the heartbreaking moment a herd of elephants gathered to pay their last respects to their dead leader. The video clip shows the animals standing around a dead elephant on the banks of a lake near Anuradhapura, close to the Kalawewa reserve in Sri Lanka.
Few of the animals gently caress the carcass of their leader with their trunks as if to say goodbye. The extraordinary sight attracted the local residents to witness where some were able to take pictures and videos.
While the video clip shows about ten elephants surrounding their dead leader, reports suggested that as many as 300 elephants gathered nearby.
It is reported that the animal was killed following a battle with a rival elephant who roams near the reserve. D. Ramasinghe, a wildlife official of the Galkiriyagama Wildlife Zone, revealed that investigations showed that the animal had received over twenty stabbings from a tusk. Ramasinghe further confirmed that the fatal wounds were the cause of the death of the elephant.
Studies have reported before that just like human beings, elephants grieve for their dead by frequently visiting their graves, rocking to and fro with grief and ‘kissing’ their carcasses with their trunks. According to an Oxford University study in carried out in 2006, the only difference is while humans usually reserve their grief for friends and family, elephants mourn over the death of the loosest acquaintance.
The study further discovered that the animals also show compassion towards the sick and dying, and try their very best to nurse them back to health.
Conservation biologist George Wittemyer, who has been studying elephants at the reserve since 1997, said, “Elephants have respect for their dead, but their interaction with their dead is not something we fully understand. Every time it happens, it’s not the same, but it is striking behavior—not based on survival or necessity, but based on some sort of emotion.”
“The fact that they interact and have behavioral interactions with their dead in a form that is not explainable in any simple, evolutionary context speaks to the deeper emotional lives of elephants that we can’t easily study.” He added.