Dying Elephant Elicits ''Compassion''

See photos of elephants appearing to grieve for a dying matriarch.
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Day One: Grace Aids Eleanor

Grace, of a family of elephants that researchers call the Virtues, touches the ailing Eleanor, the matriarch of the First Ladies family, who has fallen in Kenya's Samburu National Reserve on October 10, 2003. Grace will soon push Eleanor back to her feet, though the ailing elephant's resurgence will be short-lived.

Elephants show compassionate behavior to others in distress, even to elephants not closely related to them, according to the researchers who produced these photos and an accompanying report published in the July 2006 issue of the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Before this picture was taken, Eleanor, a new mother, had been found with a swollen trunk, abrasions to an ear and a leg, and a broken tusk—probably from a previous fall.

About two minutes after Eleanor had fallen, Grace rapidly approached. Her tail was raised and her temporal glands—located on either side of the head between the eye and ear—were excreting fluid.

"The raised tail and the streaming temporal gland are typical signs of alarm and stress," said zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton, lead author of the study and founder of the nonprofit Save the Elephants.

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Photograph by Shivani Bhalla
 
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