SRINAGAR: In a groundbreaking discovery, researchers have unveiled a remarkable burial behaviour among Asian Elephants inhabiting the eastern Himalayan floodplains. According to findings reported in Smithsonian Magazine, these elephants have been found burying their calves in a manner akin to human burial practices. The startling revelation emerged after the discovery of five dead calves buried upright on their backs in irrigation ditches within the northern Bengal landscape of the Himalayas.

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The study, conducted by scientists utilising opportunistic observation, digital photography, field notes, and postmortem examination, revealed that multiple herd members participate in the burial process. Elephants, using their trunks and legs, carry the carcasses to the burial site, where they are placed in an upright position.

Akashdeep Roy, an ecologist at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research and co-author of the study, emphasised the sentience of elephants, stating that they exhibit deliberate behaviour in their actions.

Notably, villagers and tea estate managers in the area reported hearing the elephants vocalising loudly for approximately half an hour before leaving the burial sites, suggesting a mourning behaviour consistent with previous research indicating elephants’ emotional responses to the death of a community member.

The study also highlights the environmental factor, suggesting that changes in the ecosystem, including forest destruction, may be driving elephants into human-inhabited areas, where they face new challenges and adapt behaviours, including responses to deaths within the community.

This research sheds light on the perimortem and postmortem behaviours of Asian Elephants and seeks to connect their behaviour with environmental changes and forest destruction. Despite the presence of elephant calf burial in African literature, this phenomenon remains absent from the Asian context until this recent discovery.

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