October 8, 2019

11 elephants died in an effort to save a baby elephant that had slipped into a 260-foot waterfall.

The NYT reports:
“We believe that the elephants were trying to help the baby,” [said the director of Khao Yai National Park in Thailand]. “They are forest animals that live in a group, and when one member is facing problems or needs help, they will come to help.... We believe that the death of all these elephants happened at the same time because they wanted to save the little one.”...

Edwin Wiek, founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, said he hoped that the herd was larger than the 13 known members and that the two elephants that survived, a mother and a calf, were not all alone. “Only two survivors out of a herd of 13 is so sad for the two survivors,” he said.

38 comments:

mccullough said...

Metaphor for the GOP

J. Farmer said...

I have visited Khao Yai National Park several times. It’s about a two-hour drive northeast of Bangkok. Terribly sad news.

PM said...

I know as much about elephants as the last NatGeo I saw - but I'm aware of their group bonds and intelligence, so them trying to save a nino seems pretty possible. Living in CA, the home of pampered pets, I have to admit I'm always on high pathetic fallacy alert.

Roughcoat said...

Very sad.

zipity said...


Damn that Trump. Clearly, this is his fault....

Sella Turcica said...

NYT. I’m guessing that the second paragraph of the article somehow implicates Trump.

Dave Begley said...

After my close encounter with the Norden Chute on the Niobrara River, I can tell you that a waterfall - even a small one - is a powerful and scary thing.

Scott said...

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina is a wonderful book that explores the sentience of other sentient beings, including elephants. Having read the book, it seems plausible to me, and brutally tragic, that something like this could happen. Elephant societies are like human societies in many ways. We need to defend and protect them as their numbers dwindle and habitats shrink.

Infinite Monkeys said...

I can see where the elephants might want to stay close to others in the herd, but it takes some mind reading skills to know their intent more specifically than that.

Infinite Monkeys said...

Seance kind of mind reading skills.

Mr. Groovington said...

Yes. I’ve been watching the elephants here in the Okavango Delta for 9 months as I pursue another distraction. My longest ever travel stop in 7 years of doing this.

As you may know, the groups are matriarchal. The males wander the Delta solo, or occasionally 2 or 3 for a while. But not with the large family group, usually led by the biggest and oldest female.

So it’s understandable how this heartbreaker could have happened, the whole purpose of the group is infant protection, by the mothers. There is no other conscious priority, food and water are everywhere.

Half of Africa’s elephants are here. About 130,000. When I drive in on a normal day I’ll see maybe 100, all doing their instinctive yet intelligent thing, And the hippos, crocs, lions, cheetah, leopard, a million “deer” forms, lots of deadly snake species including the mamba, boomslang, 2 cobra species, many more, monkeys, 450 bird species, giant insects, big carnivores fish, etc. The last Eden on earth. But the elephants are best.

Mr. Groovington said...

Blogger Infinite Monkeys said...
I can see where the elephants might want to stay close to others in the herd, but it takes some mind reading skills to know their intent more specifically than that.

Not at all. They’re intelligent and you can watch them manage their defined objectives and variables with impressive skill. They’ll kill you messily if you make a situational mistake as they go.

Robert Cook said...

This is so sad.

"I can see where the elephants might want to stay close to others in the herd, but it takes some mind reading skills to know their intent more specifically than that."

Not at all; social animals feel compassion for each other and an urge to help each other for the same reason humans do: to protect and further the survival of their species. Empathy, love, bonding with others, teamwork, etc., are all evolutionary mechanisms developed by social animals to enhance their individual, and thus, collective survival.

rhhardin said...

Hey. It's raining elephants.

Temujin said...

I can't help but seeing the elephants as dying while trying to help a young one. While here in Western Civ. we humans have among us people willing to die for the right to kill their young ones.

We like to think that we're the top of the chain, but I think we're just lucky to have opposable thumbs.

Howard said...

No one's surprised Robert would imply socialism is an evolutionary imperative.

n.n said...

Individual dignity. Intrinsic value. Inordinate worth.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Heartbreaking

FullMoon said...

Somewhere in the distance
There's eleven new elephants born

Browndog said...

Elephants, like whales, are advanced mammals, and deserve our respect.

madAsHell said...

The diversity of experiences found in these comments always amazes me.

....and don't forget to use the Amazon Althouse portal!! Why.....yes, Shameless Bootlicker is a bullet on my CV.

Wince said...

We believe that the death of all these elephants happened at the same time because they wanted to save the little one.

More proof that "we need to eat the babies!"

Lewis Wetzel said...

Not at all; social animals feel compassion for each other and an urge to help each other for the same reason humans do: to protect and further the survival of their species.
What bullshit.
The only social animal we can know the thoughts and motivations of is human. Human beings help one another for reasons that have nothing to do with survival of the species; ask them if you don't believe me.
Cook believes that there is a correct reason for humans to help one another, given to us by this structure of belief called "evolution," which, of course, has no reason for doing anything. "Evolution" is as responsible for wiping out species as it is for creating them; it is as responsible for murder and greed as it is for the sacrifices people make to help the people that they love or complete strangers,

Lewis Wetzel said...

"Not at all; social animals feel compassion for each other and an urge to help each other for the same reason humans do: to protect and further the survival of their species."
What bullshit.
"Evolution" is not a human motivation. Ask people if they are motivated to make sacrifices for the survival of the species.
Maybe you could ask the highly intelligent, superbly educated people who build nuclear arsenals? The eugenicists of the early 20th century believed that evolution dictated their actions.
If "Evolution" is responsible for empathy, it is also responsible for murder and greed.

Quaestor said...

We believe that the death of all these elephants happened at the same time because they wanted to save the little one.

If they were truly wildlife friends they'd ask the elephants rather than impose a conveniently pliant frame of mind of them.

You'd think those pachyderms were deplorable flyovers whose opinion matter not a whit.

Nancy said...

This is a news story?

Matt said...

So we live in a world where elephants dying is international news.

Thanks, women.

Earnest Prole said...

So just like the way humans follow each other into the basement one after another in a horror film.

Nichevo said...


J. Farmer said...
I have visited Khao Yai National Park several times. It’s about a two-hour drive northeast of Bangkok. Terribly sad news.

10/8/19, 11:34 AM


X million people died in Africa and you're worried about elephants? PETA kills a million dogs a year and you're crying over eleven pachyderms? Why, it's almost as if you were drawing distinctions.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

"An elephant's faithful one-hundred percent!’
‘I meant what I said and I said what I meant.
An elephant's faithful one-hundred percent!’"

J. Farmer said...

@Nichevo:

X million people died in Africa and you're worried about elephants?

Where did I say I was worried?

PETA kills a million dogs a year and you're crying over eleven pachyderms?

Didn't shed one tear.

Why, it's almost as if you were drawing distinctions.

Why, it's almost as if I read a news story about a place I have a personal connection to, and I found the story sad. So whatever lameass point you were trying to make, please try harder.

Fernandistein said...

Did you know? Two out of two elephant dogs are named "Bella".

Robert Cook said...

"If 'Evolution' is responsible for empathy, it is also responsible for murder and greed."

Of course it is! Who said otherwise?

As for the rest of your comments, they betray a rather primitive view of evolution, as well as simple denial of why social animals work and gather together cooperatively in social hierarchies.

Robert Cook said...

"X million people died in Africa and you're worried about elephants?"

Sorrow over the needless deaths of humans does not shut out the capacity to lament the needless deaths of non-human animals, or vice versa.

"PETA kills a million dogs a year and you're crying over eleven pachyderms?"

One can, and should, shed tears over both realities, as well as for the needless deaths of x million people in Africa or anywhere in the world.

Jamie said...

I like elephants a lot. And it's tempting to assign human meaning to their activities. I do tend to think that, because protecting young seems to be a biological imperative among many mammalian species, it applies to elephants as much as to dogs and people... but because elephants are believed to be so intelligent, I don't think it's out of the question that they possess a theory of mind and all those other things, at least in rudimentary form, that set human cognition apart from, say, dog cognition. And therefore I don't think it's out of the question that elephant have *reasons* for the things they do - again, at least in rudimentary form.

And if *that's* the case, then it's also possible, in my opinion, that elephants' reasons for doing things (if they exist) may or may not match the biological imperatives behind their actual behavior. Humans are great at rationalizing our behavior; why wouldn't other intelligent species do the same? Of course, all of this is me projecting human characteristics onto an animal on the basis of some shared DNA and evolution in a shared environment... so who the heck knows?

But I'm sad about the elephants who died, in the same general manner but to a far lesser degree than I'm sad when I hear about people who reenter a burning building to save a child inside and die trying. (Is that circumspect enough to escape the accusations of bleeding-heart sympathy for animals with simultaneous antipathy toward people?)

Rusty said...

Maybe they were depressed.

MacMacConnell said...

Someone will blame Trump for pulling out of the Paris Accords, GLOBAL WARMING!

ISSUES THAT CONCERNS US said...

Animal love