When This Elephant Elder Dies, Her Bereaved Herd’s Tribute Amazes Sobbing Onlookers

Few emotions can be stronger than the love a child has for its mother.  children look to their mothers for protection, compassion and unlimited and unwavering love.

Losing someone you care about is always traumatic. No matter the situation, the death of a friend or family member leaves a gap in your life.

Losing a parent is traumatic beyond any other loss, though. Although it is a natural progression of life, losing a parent can feel like losing part of yourself.

If they’ve always been there, helping and supporting you, it’s hard to imagine suddenly having to cope without them.It doesn’t matter the species, losing a parent is almost unbearably painful.

Rangers spotted an older elephant, Nalakite, and her three calves — a 12-year-old male, an 8-year-old male and a 2-year-old female known as “Nalakite Mdogo” or “Little Nalakite” — roaming around the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

It’s not uncommon for elephant families to live close to each other their entire lives. But, the protective stance of the three younger elephants made them take a closer look.

They found that Nalakite was not aging well. She had lost weight and had a round-shaped wound on her side that was not healing as it should.

The rangers work for Elephant Aware Masai Mara an organization that monitors and protects elephants in the region. They quickly alerted the rest of the team about Nalakite’s condition. A rescue crew, including several veterinarians, hurried to help.

Someone had probably hit Nalakite with a spear — perhaps a villager trying to chase her away from their crops. But no one will ever know the full story.

We don’t know who speared her,” Joyce Poole, an elephant behavior expert and co-director of ElephantVoices, told The Dodo. “Unfortunately there is a lot of human-elephant conflict in the Mara. Spear wounds and arrow wounds are rather common.”

Nalakite had gotten a nasty infection from the spear wound, according to Poole. This posed a double problem for the team. If they didn’t treat her, Nalakite would die.

But, treating her would require her being fully sedated. There was always the chance that Nalakite would not be able to recover from the sedation.

Once down, it is difficult to get an elephant up if it does not have the energy to do so itself,” Poole said. “If it is too weak to get up, it cannot eat or drink and won’t survive.”

They decided to at least give Nalakite a chance. They administered the sedative, then they cleaned her wounds and gave her antibiotics, vitamins and painkillers.

Then it was time to wake her back up. Unfortunately, when they gave her an antidote to wake her up, their worst fears were realized — Nalakite couldn’t get herself back to her feet.

But the rescue team refused to give up. They got ropes and hoisted Nalakite back onto her feet, while her three calves darted around, looking frightened and confused.

Finally Nalakite stood. A little wobbly and visibly shaken by the undertaking, but upright. Everyone watching cheered, believing she was well on the road to recovery. Unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived.

Just a few weeks later, rangers found Nalakite lying in a muddy waterhole. It looked like she’d fallen and was too weak to get herself out.

A rescue team hurried to help her again. They tried everything they had done before to help her to her feet. They worked for 12 full hours to try and push Nalakite out of the mud.

But it was impossible — they had to give up. Nalakite had no strength left. There was nothing more that anyone could do. Nalakite was dying.

Like any other worried children, watching a parent’s health diminishing before their eyes, Nalakite’s family began mourning.

Nalakite’s calves waited nearby throughout the day and we all gave them room to be with her every hour or so, mainly to offer both Nalakite and the calves reassurance to maintain calm,” Elephants Aware wrote in a Facebook post.

After a very long day and night of trying our very best to save Nalakite’s life, her feeble condition made this impossible and knowing that she was approaching her final moments, it was decided that she needed to be with her babies.”

The humans watched with tears in their eyes as the calves also comforted each other — the sons became extra affectionate with Nalakite Mdogo, their 2-year-old sister, wrapping their trunks around her protectively.

After a short while, Nalakite passed away. Her children stayed by her side for several more hours. Their grief was felt by everyone watching. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that elephants are indeed sentient creatures, with an understanding far beyond what most people expect.

“Elephants have an understanding of death,” Poole said. “They have a concept of the past and the future. The bonds between elephants are extraordinarily strong and when these are broken, as in death, elephants grieve. Having spent years watching and documenting elephant expressions and gestures, their grief is visible — just as we see it in humans.”

Eventually, with a last trumpet of mourning, the three children walked sadly away from their mother’s body.

After a period of grieving, they appear to be getting used to the new family dynamic without Nalakite.

“They are doing well,” Poole said. “They have been with the same family for weeks now, and we do believe that they are with other members of their family — aunts and cousins and so on. The last image I received was of Nalakite Mdogo interacting with some age mates.”

This little elephant family has learned, as we all must, no matter what, life goes on.

Source: The Dodo

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Bobbye Hudspeth

Written by Bobbye Hudspeth

Bobbye Hudspeth is a freelance writer living in a little cabin on a creek in North Alabama. She shares her mini-farm with two mini dachshunds, two cats and two fantail pigeons. She is involved in animal rescue and is currently writing a book on combining aerobics and yoga...in the pool.

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