Dying Elephant Elicits ''Compassion''

See photos of elephants appearing to grieve for a dying matriarch.
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Day Three: Paying Respects?

Rangers have cast aside Eleanor's trunk and removed the carcass's tusks "to recover the ivory and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands," zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton said.

Here, in the late afternoon of October 12, 2003, elephants from the so-called Biblical Towns family (left) allow Eleanor's six-month-old female calf to remain with her mother's body, even though they have pushed away all other members of Eleanor's First Ladies family. The calf died within three months, despite her attempts to nurse from other lactating females in her family.

Earlier, two members of the Virtues family visited the carcass—Generosity and Grace, who had helped Eleanor two days ago. Grace stood silently, appearing interested but not distressed. Generosity sniffed the blood around Eleanor's trunk cavity.

Does this mean that elephants mourn? Although he uses the word "compassion," Douglas-Hamilton is hesitant to draw such conclusions. "We deliberately did not use the word 'mourning,' although there was clearly strong emotion and curiosity, perhaps grief, in the case of the family members. But what we put in the paper is as objective and factual as we can make it."

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Photograph by Shivani Bhalla
 
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