Animals have existed prior to dawn of mankind. Between then to the post industrial age, animals constituted to the first circle of man according to Gilles Aillaud (whose article we read for class). Man went from hunting animals for food to domesticating animals and using them for animal husbandry. Dogs became man’s best friend, protecting his property and his life, cats became man’s protector of his crops, bovines and chickens in agriculture and food, horses were used to transport men and fight wars, and elephants were used to transport heavy goods and (in certain regions of the world-Africa, Asia and part of Europe) were used as heavy cavalry in wars.
When I was a teenager, we were visiting my parents’ home country and I got the chance to meet and riding the most majestic animal in the world- The Elephant. I’ve ridden a horse and camels prior to this but nothing was close to exhilarating and heart pounding than climbing atop into this wooden harness on top of this creature and going on a ride. After that, I got to feed it. The elephant would gently take the jackfruit and bananas with its trunk from my hand and feed itself. Its skin felt like a softer tree bark. It was a fascinating animal interaction I’ve ever experienced to this day.
They are one of the few mammals (Human, Apes and dolphins are the rest) in this world that passes the mirror test (the ability to recognize itself). We as mankind have always wondered if animals can feel and portray emotions. Through decades of research, scientists have found that elephants are capable of complex thought and feelings.
Here is a video of a herd of elephants when it encounters the remains of other elephants.
That emotion isn’t just reserved for its own species. Two months after the world renowned elephant “whisper” Lawrence Anthony passed away, two herds of elephants under took a 12 hour journey to visit him and mourn his death.
“They had not visited the house for a year and a half and it must have taken them about 12 hours to make the journey,” Dylan is quoted in various local news accounts. “The first herd arrived on Sunday and the second herd, a day later. They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush.”
Their normal lifespan is 60-80 years. Elephants, humans, and Neanderthals are the only animals known to have death rituals. If an elephant becomes sick, herd members will bring it food and help support it as it stands. If it dies, they will try to revive it with food and water for a while. Once it is clear that an elephant is dead, the herd will become very quiet. They often dig a shallow grave and cover the deceased elephant with dirt and branches, and will stay at the grave for days afterwards. If the elephant had a particularly close relationship with its deceased peer, it can show signs of depression. Even herds that come across an unknown lone elephant who has died will show it similar respects. There are also reported cases of elephants burying dead humans they have found in this way
Elephants deserve so much better than what we as human beings give them. We reduce their grazing land for our needs, poach and kill them for their ivory tusk and those are the two direct causes of the dwindling population in Asia and Africa. They often show human like emotions, logic and actions yet we’ve marginalized and devalued their intelligence and almost hunted them down to extinction.
Mahatma Gandhi once said “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.
So far we as human beings have failed this planet.