Here is a beautiful and moving story about a procession of wild elephants who arrived from miles away to pay their respects upon the death of their friend and benefactor, Lawrence Anthony, remaining for two days in an elephant vigil. Mr. Anthony's family said that these elephants had not been seen in the area of his house for about fifteen months prior to his sudden passing from a heart attack.
Mr. Anthony, the author along with Graham Spence of the Elephant Whisperer, as well as of Babylon's Ark and the Last Rhinos, lived with his family in a remote rural compound in the Thula Thula game preserve in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. He died of a heart attack on March 2 of this year; he was 61.
His family reported that after his passing, two herds arrived after a trek of about twelve hours and remained in the vicinity of the compound for two more days. Here is a touching article about the incident from the Delight Makers website. Here is a link to a photograph that the family posted.
Besides being incredibly moving and heart-rending, this story is extremely important. First, this type of grieving behavior is by no means unknown among elephants -- many other examples exist (see stories here and here, for instance, as well as the well-publicized and moving story of Shirley and Jenny -- see video one and video two). This in itself is important. That wild elephants would display such grieving for a human who befriended them is also important. There are also other stories of domestic animals displaying powerful grief and mourning after the loss of a human friend and companion, such as those discussed here.
Second and even more amazing is the implications of the report that two herds of elephants many miles away somehow perceiving the death of a human -- and traveling for twelve hours to his location. There is no easy explanation for such perception that I know of being offered by the promoters of an absolutely materialistic worldview. If these reports about the elephants perceiving the passing of their friend are true, they deal a powerful blow to the strictly materialistic views of consciousness and existence which are so virulently promoted by many defenders of "Science" (in denial of much evidence, it must be added).
The only real rebuttal that a strict materialist could offer for this moving story would be to deny it altogether, it would seem. To do that, they would have to assert that in their time of mourning the family dreamed up this very improbable story -- an incredibly callous and cynical suggestion and one that would really be quite inhuman to suggest. I do not know of anyone who is suggesting such a thing, but only point out that it is quite unlikely and would be really quite wrong to suggest it.
It would also be ridiculous to suggest that the mysterious arrival after Mr. Anthony's death of the two elephant herds of Thula Thula after fifteen months in other parts of the park was mere coincidence, especially since they loitered in the area grieving, and especially in light of the many recorded instances of similar acts of grieving by other elephants stretching back for decades.
Here are two more articles (here and here) which describe the arrival of the elephants at the Anthony family compound.
This moving episode suggests that the nature of consciousness is far different than we have been led to believe by the proponents of the absolute materialist worldview that has held sway in most of academia for a century. It clearly has resonances with the work of Rupert Sheldrake, author of (among many other works) the book Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home, and other unexplained powers of animals. It also brings up the extremely important subject discussed by Chris Carter in his excellent essay "Does consciousness depend on the brain?" which was linked in this previous post.
Rest in peace Lawrence Anthony, and we send our sincere wishes for comfort to his grieving family, of all species.