Some of the most impressive and iconic animals in the animal kingdom are elephants. Perhaps it’s their incredible features or massive size, or maybe it’s because when you think of these breathtaking animals they remind us of our childhood. Everyone remembers Dumbo, Babar, Tantor, and the elephant graveyard in The Lion King. Most of all we remember going to the zoo or the circus as a child and being mesmerized by the elephants. Believe it or not, elephants are more like humans than you may think. Elephants have amazing memories, complex emotions and even unique family dynamics. Elephants live in groups called herds. Each herd has 8-100 individuals headed by the oldest and usually, the largest female called the matriarch. Similar to humans, elephants develop deep family bonds, and are considered to have the most closely knit family units of any other animal. Females live with the herd for the rest of their lives unless they are is captured. Elephants reach puberty between the ages of 13 and 14 years old, at that time the males leave the herd to join “bachelor herds”. These transitional herds consist of young male elephants not yet mature enough to live on their own. Female elephants can have calves until they’re 50 years old and can live up to and over 70 years old!
When a new calf is born it is taken care of, raised and protected by the whole herd, just like a new baby would be taken care of in one of our families. When a new baby is born elephants become joyous and celebrate. It is a special occasion in the elephant family. You’ve probably heard that an elephant never forgets- and it’s true! An elephant can remember things and places for many years which help them guide their herds to safe resting places, rich in food and water. Aside from having a great memory, elephants feel many emotions. One of their most impressive gifts is their ability to empathize and sympathize. They can show love, curiosity and playfulness. Elephants are able to show grief, anger and sadness.
Elephants care for each other and are always looking out for one another. If an elephant in the herd becomes ill, the rest of the herd will bring it food and water. The elephants try to help nourish the sick elephant back to health. They will continue this act even after the elephant dies. Once it’s clear that the elephant has passed, the herd digs a shallow grave for the deceased and covers it with branches and dirt. The herd will become quiet and stay by the grave for days, mourning their lost loved one. Some elephants that had a close relationship with the deceased will show signs of depression. Others show love by comforting their family members. Humans, Neanderthals and elephants are the only animals to have death rituals.
If a herd should stumble upon an elephant carcass that they don’t recognize they will