Redrawing the Boundaries

After a death, family members show signs of grief and exhibit ritualistic behavior. Field biologists such as Joyce Poole, who has studied Africa’s elephants for more than 35 years, describe elephants trying to lift the dead body and covering it with dirt and brush. Poole once watched a female stand guard over her stillborn baby for three days, her head, ears, and trunk drooped in grief. Elephants may revisit the bones of the deceased for months, even years, touching them with their trunks and creating paths to visit the carcass.

The most recent National Geographic has a moving article on efforts to save orphaned elephants in Kenya. Because elephants are such social animals, they need humans to provide emotional support as well as food and shelter.

It’s amazing how sophisticated the elephants are in their interaction with the people and peers around them. The boundaries we set for cognition come out looking pretty arbitrary.