News Karnataka
Thursday, April 25 2024
India

Asian Elephants Loudly Mourn, Bury Dead Calves: Study

Elephants
Photo Credit : News Karnataka

New Delhi: A recent study conducted by Indian scientists reveals intriguing behavior among Asian elephants when it comes to dealing with their deceased calves. The findings, published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa this week, shed light on a phenomenon reminiscent of human funeral rites.

Over the course of 2022 and 2023, researchers documented five instances of calf burials carried out by elephant herds in the northern Bengal region of India. Each burial involved the herd delicately carrying the departed calf using their trunk and legs, before interring it in the ground with its legs positioned upwards.

The study, utilizing a combination of opportunistic observation, digital photography, field notes, and postmortem examination reports, notes that the calves were buried in a distinct recumbent style regardless of the cause of death.

In a poignant moment, one herd was observed loudly roaring and trumpeting around the burial site of a calf, suggesting a form of mourning or reverence.

Interestingly, the study observed that only calves were buried by the herds, as it was deemed impractical for the larger adult elephants to undertake such a task collectively.

Authors of the study, Parveen Kaswan and Akashdeep Roy, emphasize that their research found no indication of direct human involvement in any of the observed calf deaths.

The burial sites, located in irrigation canals on tea estates, were meticulously covered by the elephants, leaving clear footprints of the herd around the area. The calves, aged between three months and a year, succumbed to multiple organ failure.

Notably, the behavior of the elephant herds studied differed from what had been previously observed in African elephants. These findings underscore the need for further exploration into the social dynamics and rituals of Asian elephants.

Despite the communal nature of elephant behavior, the herds studied promptly vacated the burial sites within 40 minutes and opted for alternate migration routes thereafter, indicating a deliberate avoidance of the area.

Asian elephants, classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, face numerous threats to their survival. With an estimated wild population of around 26,000, predominantly in India and Southeast Asia, these majestic creatures play a vital role in their ecosystems, living an average of 60-70 years in the wild.

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