We’ve long heard tales of an elephant graveyard – a secret place that aged elephants seek out to die… but is there any chance it could be real? No one has ever found one, but according experts on elephant behavior, it’s not unthinkable that such a place could exist.
For the elephant graveyard to exist, first we would need to establish that elephants instinctively know when their time is near. That way they could separate themselves from the herd with enough time to journey to the graveyard before their death – but are they capable of such a thing?
Scholar Karen Harris says older elephants could instinctively wander away from the herd, but probably not because they have a sense of impending death – they need softer, more easily digestible food, and so might venture out on their own in order to find it.
For the same reason, it might be likely to find the skeletons of aged elephants together, gathered near a good source of soft food.
Many explorers have gone in search of elephant graveyards, but none has found definitive proof that they exist. Some have never returned from their search at all. Others who have tried report following aged elephants for days or weeks only to realize the elephant led them in circles.
On purpose? Who’s to say…
And those who have never returned – could they have been killed or taken hostage by the mystical beings that supposedly guard the gate?
In reality, there are several occurrences that could have given rise to the myth in the first place. Elephants could die en masse in one place for any number of reasons – like the theory that aged elephants seek out a similar food source. They may perish from a natural disaster, running afoul of hunters, or having starved to death.
Researchers do believe that elephants have a degree of understanding about death, appearing to mourn and even bury fallen herd members. They’ve been seen burying deceased human beings they’ve come across, as well, so, even if the myth is just that, there seems to be no doubt that elephants are majestic, loving creatures that deserve better treatment from humans than they often get.
It’s hard to blame them, then, for keeping their magic solutions to war and hatred all to themselves. They probably figure we don’t deserve that, either.