African elephants often bury dead or sleeping humans or aid them when they are hurt. One woman fell asleep under a tree and woke to find an elephant standing over her gently touching her. As other elephants arrived they buried her under branches. She was found the next morning unharmed.
Scientists often debate the extent to which elephants feel emotion. Elephants have been one of few species of mammals other than Homo sapiens sapiens and Neanderthals known to have or have had any recognizable ritual around death. Elephants show a keen interest in the bones of their own kind (even unrelated elephants that have died long ago). They are often seen gently investigating the bones with their trunks and feet while remaining very quiet. Sometimes elephants that are completely unrelated to the deceased still visit their graves.
Elephant researcher Martin Meredith recalls in his book an occurrence of a typical elephant death ritual as witnessed by Anthony Hall-Martin, a South African biologist who had studied elephants in A… Continue Reading (14 minute read)