A recent study observed Asian elephants often comfort each other when suffering. The elephants in the study used both physical and acoustic contact as well as comfortable gestures, body touch and small chirping. The study concludes this behavior is “best classified with similar responses comforted by apes, possibly based on the converging evolution of empathy”.
Emotional elephants, or any other animal, understand death like a human. But elephants have demonstrated a clear response to the death of their fellow human beings, displaying common human emotions such as grief and mourning. They caress the bones of the dead elephant and will stay close to the body for hours. Sometimes, they even try to bury the remains of that dead elephant. They do not behave like that with other animals. There is a touching photo taken by photographer John Chaney for National Geographic, a female elephant that “walks very slowly and shows sympathy as she wraps her body around the dead ivory. this pose for a few hours … ”