Asian elephants have a very human-like habit – and it’s heartbreaking | Tech News

Asian elephants show strong feelings when a calf dies (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)

Elephants are famous for their emotions, intelligence and big hearts – now it seems that, just like us, they also bury and mourn their dead.

Researchers in India’s Bengal region discovered five cases of Asian elephants burying calves that had died between 2022 and 2023.

The team discovered in each case a herd had carried the calf as a group by the trunk and the legs, before burying the individual on its back, with its legs facing upwards.

In one instance, the herd roared and trumpeted loudly around the buried calf.

‘Through opportunistic observation, digital photography, fieldnotes, and postmortem examination reports, we suggest that the carcasses were buried in an abnormal recumbent style irrespective of the reasons for the calf’s death,’ authors Parveen Kaswan and Akashdeep Roy wrote.

Elephants, which live in tight-knit herds, are famous for grieving their dead, but the study noted only calves were buried due to it being impossible for them to move or bury adults.

Elephants live in tight-knit herds (Picture: Getty)

The team added the research found ‘no direct human intervention’ in any of the calf deaths, which were all due to multiple organ failure between the age of three and 12 months.

The ‘funerals’ were attended by 15 to 20 elephants, and took place in irrigation canals on tea estates, far from the nearest human settlements. The herd ‘fled the site’ within 40 minutes of the burial, and later avoided returning to the area, changing their route during migration.

Asian elephants are endangered (Picture: Getty)

Other elephants in Africa and Asia have been known to visit bodies at different stages of composition, showing behaviour differs between herds.

Asian elephants are found in forest and grasslands across southeast Asia including in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China and Malaysia. They are locally extinct in Pakistan.

There are around 50,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, where habitat loss, poaching and the illegal trade of individuals has left them classed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The study is published in the Journal Of Threatened Taxa.

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