The sadness of elephants is an extremely pure sentiment and the story of environmentalist Lawrence Anthony is the quintessential example of this. If you’ve never heard of it, this article is for you.
Lawrence Anthony was born in South Africa in 1950. The son of a wealthy Scottish miner who had left his native country to fall in love with Africa. Lawrence inherited both the mining and the love of nature that marked his father’s existence. But what does your life have to do with the sadness of elephants?
Anthony decided to give a different meaning to his life, both personally and professionally. He enrolled in university and became a biologist first and then a conservationist. He had a soft spot for elephants, one of the most endangered species in the world due to poaching and deforestation. Immediately, he put all his efforts into protecting them. Thus begins the story of the sadness of elephants.
The sadness of the elephants
Before continuing with the story of Lawrence Anthony, let’s get to know these noble and fascinating animals better. This species is better known for its circus performances than for its extraordinary characteristics, both physical and cognitive. Their evolution is comparable only to that of chimpanzees and dolphins.
Elephants have large brains, in fact no other land animal has one of the same size. This makes them very intelligent animals. We are not just talking about the fact that they have an impressive memory, but above all about their very advanced social behaviors.
One of the most surprising aspects of elephants is that they are one of the few species that experience mourning for their dead companions. The sadness of elephants is expressed through small funeral rituals when one of them is killed or dies of old age.
And it doesn’t matter if he’s a member of the same pack. When they find the remains, the carcass or the bones of a similar one, they hang around for a long time, surrounding the place of discovery as if they were paying a tribute.
Elephants in danger
But back to Lawrence Anthony. His name became famous following an accident in 1999. In a small village called Zuzuland an unusual offer appeared : a herd of elephants had been offered as a gift to anyone who wanted it.
The problem is that it was a confrontational group, to the point that its members were considered on a par with wild elephants. They broke everything, did not obey man and tried to escape at the first opportunity.
Lawrence Anthony then decided to accept the challenge. He took up this herd of elephants, which he accompanied for a walk in the reserve he had built especially for them. He baptized the herd with the name of Thula Thula , which means “peace and quiet”.
He noticed that Nana, the pack matriarch, was one of the most rebellious. He had signs of mistreatment and fled from the slightest danger. Lawrence decided to sleep next to the herd every night, along with his assistant David and his dog. Keep in mind that the reserve was limited only by a simple wooden fence.
Each morning, Nana joined the other elephants, but her only intent was to tear down the enclosure. Lawrence started talking to the huge animal, trying to explain to her the great dangers he would encounter if he left that safe and peaceful place.
Nana began to be intrigued by that strange man and, very soon, from this initial approach a deep feeling of affection was born. The herd stopped being rebellious and aggressive and the animals accepted Lawrence’s friendship.
The sadness of the elephants and strange events
Lawrence calmed the group of elephants and later rescued several specimens from the Baghdad Zoo during the Iraq war. The conservationist managed to save many more elephants, this time from the Congo, tormented by the coltan war. He wrote several books about his experiences and was particularly interested in the way elephants communicate.
Lawrence Anthony died on March 2, 2012, victim of a heart attack. Thus begins the most surprising episode in the history of elephant sadness. The day after his death, the elephants he had rescued approached the house where the biologist lived.
It consisted of two packs, both led by a matriarch. Thirty-one elephants walked a distance of over 20 kilometers, in single file, to pay their last respects to Lawrence.
Once there, they surrounded the house of their friend man and stayed there for two days, without eating or drinking. Perhaps this was their way of expressing their sadness, their way of saying goodbye to that human being who had shown them respect and love. On the third day they left with the same solemnity with which they had arrived.
No one, even today, is able to explain how these animals knew of Lawrence’s death. It remains a mystery, but the fact is that this story is one of the most beautiful we have ever had the privilege to tell you.