It is a rare and poignant scene filmed by a zoologist specializing in pachyderms, showing us groups of elephants coming in turn around the corpse of a matriarch who died a few weeks earlier. Should we see a kind of contemplation there?
We are in the Samburu National Reserve, in northern Kenya. It was there that one of the last matriarchs, a 45-year-old female, died a natural death. A few weeks later, several elephants can be seen stopping in front of the corpse of the matriarch, a few seconds to smell her, touch her. Rare images that Shifra Goldenberg, doctoral student at the Colorado State Universitya specialist in pachyderms and who had followed the female for a few weeks.
Queen Victoria was the name of this female whose remains were visited by three separate groups of elephants. For the specialist in pachyderms, this behavior is not usual. » The animals look stressed she comments. Should we therefore see a kind of contemplation, of mourning? Not necessarily, it would be bringing an anthropomorphic analysis to the scene for the specialist who specifies that we do not know what the animals have in mind at this precise moment, and who wonders about the fact that on these three groups distinct from elephants, two had no particular connection to Queen Victoria.
» What the family did was interesting, but what the non-relatives did was just as interesting. says the zoologist. » We see them inspecting the body, stopping to smell it. It’s incredible this level of fascination. Her family was distressed to see her not rising, but others were also affected by her death. she comments.
A mysterious behavior, which looks like a kind of contemplation, sadness, especially since elephants are known to form very close-knit groups, with many social interactions, like other mammals such as dolphins or chimpanzees for example, animals that are able to show empathy.