From the Wild Zone: Death of an Elephant

A video I recently happened to see was of an elephant trying unsuccessfully to run as if something great was at stake. It came away from the open and wearily looked this way and that and then noticing the shade of a big tree headed straight for it and managed to make it with difficulty. Having done that it stood still for some time as if contemplating as to what to do next. It was seemingly up against the moment of truth – a moment that can make or mar one.

Then suddenly one of its front legs buckled a bit and before it could recover, the other front leg too buckled. Then it fell in a heap on one of its sides and became motionless. Apparently, it had tried to run looking for a shade for its terminal moments. Elephants are intelligent animals. One wonders whether it got an inkling of its imminent end. It looked as if it was being chased by death and chose the refuge of a shady tree for its last moments. Though the death looked as if it was painless but one cannot tell for sure what went on inside it.

A few moments later the mourning rituals commenced. Apparently, from nowhere a small herd of elephants appeared. One wouldn’t know whether it was a member of the herd. It could have even sent a sub-sonic rumble (as the elephants are known to do) to the herd as an SOS that brought the other members to the site.

For all one knows, the dead elephant was trying to make it to a waterhole before it felt weak and collapsed. Elephants are known to head towards a waterhole when they think time is up for them. Some waterholes are, therefore, known as Elephants Graveyard. Anything is possible.

Some of the elephants of the herd felt the dead elephant with their trunks. The young ones even mounted their forelegs on the body and then moved around the body to sniff at it. At the end a peculiar thing happened. At least two elephants of the herd walked backwards and mounted the dead elephant with their hind legs and remained in that position for few moments. The heard moved away after they dismounted.

Elephants, the gentle giants, are highly social animals and living almost as long as humans they develop an intricate social dynamics. They grieve just as humans do when one of them is felled by a predator or by nature. They are sometimes known to have buried their dead with grass and other dry foliage. They generally extend a trunk-full of assurance to a dead elephant by way of resting their trunks on it for a while when they come across one on their way during their wanderings. They are also known to get heartbroken when their mate dies and this heartbreak, unlike with humans, could lead it to death. A kind of death wish overtakes them when one loses its mate as the bonds are so very strong. Did this one have a broken heart? Nobody knows.


More by :  Proloy Bagchi

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