13 December 2012 by Kate Turkington

An elephant mourns its dead brother

Early one morning in Madikwe Game Reserve, a young elephant is observed mourning his dead brother and chasing predators away from the body.

There was no doubt that this young elephant was grieving for its dead brother

I’m sure you’ve heard the tales – about how an elephant is supposed to ‘mourn’ if another dies. I’d heard the tales too, and dismissed them with the same disbelief I had of the unfounded stories of an elephants’ graveyard where old elephants are said to take themselves off to when they know they are going to die.

A big male lion takes a breather from gorging on a dead elephant

But there’s always something new to learn in the bush, and on a recent trip to Madikwe Game Reserve in North West province, I actually saw with my own eyes a young elephant mourn an older brother.

It was early morning and our game vehicle came upon 2 big male lions gorging themselves on a freshly dead elephant that seemed to have died of old age.

We could hear but not see a herd close by.

Suddenly, out of the bush, walked a young elephant. He was strolling casually along, but then, as if he couldn’t believe his own eyes, he noticed the dead elephant.

He walked up to it, sniffed it, tenderly stroked it with his trunk, walked round and round it, and then stood motionless for several minutes as he gazed at the huge body.

He walked up to it, sniffed it, and tenderly stroked it with his trunk.

Understandably, the lions had retreated when he first got to the scene. Now, one of the braver of the 2 attempted to come back to the body and resume its feasting.

With a mighty roar, flapping his ears and charging straight at the lion, the young elephant chased him off.

Then, as we watched in awe, he stood for at least 40 minutes by his dead brother, ‘nursing’ him with his own trunk and caressing him.

It’s one of my personal unforgettable bush experiences.

Time to say goodbye...

Category: Wildlife


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