When Parveen Kaswan reported for duty as a forest ranger for the Indian Foreign Service earlier this month, he could have never imagined seeing a group of elephants that would change the way we think about how animals grieve.
The emotional video has gone viral after people around the world were both stunned and touched to see a herd of elephants grieving one of their dead young.
As traffic stopped on the road, a group watched from one end while Kaswan got out his camera. Then, a large Indian elephant emerged from the forest with its trunk wrapped around a dead juvenile.
Kaswan captioned the video: “This will move you!! Funeral procession of the weeping elephants carrying dead body of the child elephant. The family just don’t want to leave the baby.”
That’s right, he reports hearing the animals weeping during the procession. (While we do know that elephants can cry tears, we do not know if they do it out of emotion.)
The elephant then lays the infant down at the side of the road and no one is quite sure what’s happening yet.
Only then do we see a second animal emerge as the first elephant looks into the forest beyond.
While it looks distraught, there’s certainly no way for a human to know what it’s thinking or feeling.
While the second animal acknowledges the dead baby, the real surprise comes when the rest of the herd emerges from the forest, following in what looks like a funeral procession.
Another animal then picks up the baby as they carry on into the forest. For a brief moment, they even gather around the corpse.
There has been speculation that elephants do grieve their dead.
Mother elephants have been seen hovering over dead babies for days. In 2016, National Geographic shared a video of separate groups of elephants coming to inspect the body of the herd’s matriarch over the course of a week.
Others have reported seeing groups of elephants gathering around their dead and swaying back and forth.
Of course, we can’t fully understand what grieving means to an elephant, but it at least seems likely that they are emotional around, and have respect for, their dead.
Kasween’s video has now been viewed by nearly half a million people
A few days later, re-posted the video after hundreds of comments and thousands of retweets saying
“There are theories which talk about ancient elephant cemeteries in forest. Many people have written about it…
But I have not found any conclusive evidence. Though in most cases elephants prefer to die near water bodies.”
And elephants aren’t the only creatures in the animal kingdom who display elaborate mourning rituals.
According to the BBC, in 2001 scientists reported seeing a group of dolphins attend to the body a dead calf for days, chasing away seabirds attempting to feed on it. Chimpanzees have also been known to hang onto the corpses of their infants for days after their deaths.
Scroll down to see Parveen Kaswan’s original video from India. It’s both sad and touching.
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This will move you !! Funeral procession of the weeping elephants carrying dead body of the child elephant. The family just don’t want to leave the baby. pic.twitter.com/KO4s4wCpl0
— Parveen Kaswan, IFS (@ParveenKaswan) June 7, 2019