What Happens When an Animal Dies at the National Zoo?

Dealing with death is part of the job.

Luke, the African Lion, who died on Oct. 19.


With roughly 2,000 animals in the care of the National Zoo, dealing with the end of life is an inevitable part of the job, and these last few months saw several notable deaths.

Luke, a 17-year-old African lion, died on Oct. 19; Naba, an 18-year-old African lion, died on Sept. 26; and Calli, a 17-year-old California sea lion, died on Sept. 7. While counts obviously ebb and flow year by year, the zoo (using data from the past three years and including small animals like fish) estimates that it loses about 200 animals annually.

But while we get to see how the critters celebrate their birthdays and even holidays (hint: it often involves elaborate species-friendly treats), their deaths are more of a mystery. Is there a funeral? A secret animal graveyard somewhere?

Well, no and no.

While zookeepers are human and certainly mourn the loss of their “coworkers”—the zoo even maintains a relationship with a local animal grief counselor—they are also biologists. And in death, there’s a window for research.

Consequently, just about every animal that dies in the care of the zoo, whether from euthanasia or on its own, is immediately sent to the zoo’s pathology lab for a necropsy—the equivalent of a human autopsy.

“All organs are evaluated, all joints are evaluated, diagnostic samples are taken, maybe even beyond what we took when the animal was alive,” says Don Neiffer, chief veterinarian for the National Zoo. “The samples are then frozen for future evaluation and research that could benefit conservation. Tissues also go out for something called histopathology,” or the microscopic study of disease.

According to Neiffer, the zoo has tissue samples of nearly every animal there since the ’70s—including a few species that are now extinct.

Any resulting information is then shared across the industry, providing useful data to researchers who may be studying a niche health issue within a certain species that they normally wouldn’t have access to. “In death, we utilize these animals to help improve the lives for the others they left behind,” says Neiffer.

For example, when the first baby Asian elephant born at the zoo unexpectedly died in 1995, its necropsy led to the discovery of a previously unidentified herpesvirus in elephants. “Basically, it was the wellspring for elephant herpes virus research, diagnostics, treatment, and hopefully an eventual cure,” says Neiffer.

Veterinary technician Hannah Sylvester works with elephant blood samples, extracting DNA, as part of elephant herpesviruses research.

Even local wildlife, like squirrels that wander onto the zoo’s campus and die, undergo necropsies.

“Because of our collection, we want to do surveillance,” said Neiffer. “If [dead wildlife] comes to us, we do at least minimal gross dissection, but oftentimes we do diagnostics. We’re looking at any issues that could concern our team or animals,” such as rabies or Avian influenza. Likewise, the zoo shares this data with local wildlife departments.

Afterward, leftover parts of the animal—think a shell from a tortoise or the skeleton of a cheetah—might go to a museum or education center. In fact, the National Museum of Natural History has several skeletons from the zoo in its collection.

Anything remaining will be cremated, including even the tiniest of animals. “Everything from guppies to elephants is incinerated,” says Neiffer.

While burials were once commonplace at zoos, very few bury their animals anymore. One reason for that: “You don’t want illicit wildlife parts ending up in anybody’s hands,” says Neiffer.

Of course, underlying all these scientific processes is the emotional side of death, too. “Anyone who has a good understanding of how much we love these animals and care for them can understand how difficult end of life care is,” says Brandie Smith, the zoo’s director. “But also, these are professionals. These are people who train their entire career to do this.”

With so many of the animals living past their species’ mortality rates in the wild, the zoo’s workers must regularly confront a heart-wrenching question: if and when to euthanize a terminally ill animal. The zoo keeps a detailed chart, tracking the animal’s quality of life‚ marking whether it’s still eating, staying active, and socializing. When it becomes clear that the “animal is suffering beyond what’s reasonable,” then it’s time.

“It’s hard on us, but we take on that burden as zookeepers,” says Neiffer. “It’s our onus and our responsibility to provide the animals with that peaceful passage to the next plane. When we can remove [their suffering], we’ve given them that last gift.”

Still, it’s always hard to say goodbye, which is why the zoo provides its keepers a final moment with the animal before euthanasia. Even particularly social species, like elephants and great apes, receive a moment to acknowledge the death of their habitat mate (assuming it died from a noninfectious cause). 

While there’s ultimately no funeral or ceremony, there are sympathy cards. The public often sends in memories they had of an animal, drawings from children, and well wishes for staff, says Smith. In the case of a panda cub that lived only for a few days, Smith says “the outpouring of sympathy and grief from the public was really powerful.”

Then, as with all things, life goes on.

“Animal keepers as a whole are an incredibly stoic group of people and they’re good at grieving with one another—but they also have a job to do,” says Smith. “There are other animals to take care of. It’s part of the cycle they have been trained for.”

Complete Article HERE!

5 Meaningful Ways To Remember A Beloved Pet

By jackmartin

One of the most painful things a pet parent can go through is the loss of a beloved pet. Even if death is inevitable, saying goodbye to an animal companion can be a challenging process. After all, your pet has already become one of the treasured members of your family. This indeed makes the grief more intense and complex. Thankfully, some ways can help you grieve healthily and honor the memories you had with your pet during their lifetime.

But how can you do that? Read on to learn the five meaningful ways to remember a beloved pet.

  • Hold A Memorial Service

Organizing a memorial service is one of the most traditional yet special ways to cherish the memories of your furry companion who has crossed the rainbow bridge. It can be an excellent opportunity to gather all the people who love and care for your pet. During the memorial service, you can request these people to share a good memory of your pet.

Moreover, there are ways to organize a pet memorial service. For example, if you choose to bury your pet, you may pick a burial spot in your garden or anywhere near your home. You can create a memorial garden where you can add a paving stone engraved with your pet’s name or image.

On the other hand, you may also decide to cremate your animal companion with the help of cremation providers like Lawnswood Pet Cremation and other similar options. In doing so, you can scatter the ashes in any natural spot or opt to keep the ashes with you at home, where you can rekindle your pet’s beautiful memories anytime.  

  • Buy A Customized Pet Jewelry Item

Another meaningful way of remembering your beloved pet is to customize a jewelry item for them. For example, with your furry companion’s name, you can buy things like brackets, cuff links, lockets, rings, and other similar products. You can also personalize the jewelry item by having it shaped like a paw or engraving your pet’s photo on it. However, if you want to be closer to your pet’s memories all the time, you may consider buying a jewelry item like a necklace, which is designed to keep a small number of your pet’s ashes in it.

  • Put Together A Pet Remembrance Book

It’s hard to forget your happy memories with your beloved pet. Hence, if you want to remember them even if they’re gone, you can create a photo album book containing all your pet’s photos throughout their life. Indeed, you’ve taken many pictures of your pet during their lifetime.

So, use these images to create a pet remembrance book where you can compile them and provide a brief description of the events depicted in the photos. For instance, if the pictures are stored online, you can use a photo editing app to create a digital pet remembrance book. However, if you want a physical copy of the photo album, you can buy a photo book in the store and create your own.

  • Hang Your Pet’s Portrait In Your Home

Painting your pet’s portrait can also be one of the meaningful ways to cherish their memories. You can hang it in the central area of your home, like the living room. This will always serve as your last memory with your beloved pet, who has passed already.

To get started, you can commission a pet portrait artist in your area to create the painting for you. You can find these professionals online, particularly on many social media platforms. You can also ask your veterinarian or some pet stores for some recommendations if they have any.

  • Make A Donation In Your Pet’s Memory

Donating money to animal shelters and other pet organizations can be a meaningful and powerful way of remembering your beloved pet. It can make you feel better because you can help other animals in your furry companion’s memory. You can use the money you would have spent on your pet to fund abandoned animals’ needs, including their food, medical care, treats, and even toys.

By doing all these things, you can make your pet’s passing more special. You can turn your grief into hope and love for other animals in need.

Final Thoughts

Mourning for a pet’s death can be a tough process. But you don’t need to dwell on that pain for a long time. Although you can never bring their life back, some ways can help you commemorate their life. You’ll have plenty of ways to remember a furry friend if you keep the information mentioned above in mind. These methods will allow you to say goodbye and maintain your connection with them for the rest of your life.

Complete Article HERE!

Why a pet’s death hits so hard

— New book explores dealing with the loss of a beloved companion


E.B. Bartels has cared for many pets in her life: Fish, dogs, birds and a tortoise. And she watched many of them die.

In her new book, “Good Grief: On Loving Pets Here and Hereafter” she explores how people mourn and grieve their animals. With her own losses, Bartels says she often diminishes her feelings by telling herself it was a only dog or a bird that died, not a human being.

“The truth is, we can have really deep, special, important relationships with animals that sometimes are even more profound than our relationships with other people,” Bartels says. “I interviewed so many people for my book who said, ‘It hit me way harder when my cat of 20 years died than when my dad who I was sort of estranged from passed away.’”

Animals love their owners unconditionally — and the loss of that acceptance can devastate people, Bartels says. And losing the physical affection from cuddling or sleeping beside a pet is a big loss when the animal is no longer around.

Even with all her research, Bartels questions why people continue adopting pets knowing this difficult goodbye is inevitable.

“Are we just masochists? Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?” she says. “There’s really something worth it. I just always think about the complete, unconditional love that our animals give us.”

For example, her beloved dog Seymour endured a tough heartworm treatment last spring that involved shots and drugs — but he never resented or witheld snuggles from Bartels and her husband.

Bartels thinks about Seymour’s eventual death on a daily basis. Prey-driven Seymour loves to chase small animals like squirrels and lunge after trucks, so on every walk, Bartels thinks he’s going to get away from her and run into the street.

“I think in some ways pets bring us so much joy because they force us to remember how short life is and how fleeting our time is together,” she says. “Even if Seymour gets hit by a car tomorrow while I’m walking him, at least we’ve had a few really special years together. And I’m really grateful for that time.”

Interview Highlights

On how to know when it’s time to say goodbye

“That is a really hard question and I wish I had a better answer. I asked every single vet I interviewed for this book that question. One of the best pieces of advice I heard was sort of the three things rule.

“A vet in Western Mass. said to think of three things that your pet loves to do. Maybe it’s swim in the lake and chase a tennis ball and loves to eat carrots. And on any given day, if your pet can still do all three or two of those three things, then your pet’s probably in pretty good shape. But if you start to notice that even the things that they absolutely love to do more than anything in the world are becoming challenging or they’re not interested in doing them anymore, then that’s when you really need to start to think about, am I holding on because I’m having trouble letting go and what’s best for my pet here? Are they in pain or are they suffering? It’s hard, though, because every animal is so different.”

On how the death of pets weighs on veterinarians

“It’s really hard for vets. I spoke to probably like 25 or 30 different [vets] for this book, and all of them brought up the really high suicide rate actually among veterinarians. All of them have lost colleagues to suicide.

“I think that’s part of why I wanted to write so much about the vet perspective in my book, to really remind people who are grieving that it’s really easy when you’re grieving and angry and upset to lash out and blame the vet, ‘Oh, you said this surgery would fix their cancer and it didn’t work and they died anyway.’ Vets are people and they’re just trying the best they can and they want what’s best for your pet, too.

“I had a lot of people tell me they got really angry at their vet when the vet suggested maybe it was time to consider euthanasia, but they admitted later that they just didn’t want to hear that because they were sad and upset and the vet really was doing what was best for the animal or thinking about what was best for the animal.”

On her visits to pet cemeteries and how famous racehorses like Secretariat are memorized

“We can really be profoundly impacted by animals who aren’t our own pets, who are famous, and lots of people know and love them. Secretariat in particular came on the scene when people were going through a hard time in the United States. There was war and seeing such a joyful, successful racehorse really brought a lot of people’s spirits up. So in Lexington, [Kentucky], it was really amazing to see these whole horse cemeteries and monuments to these amazing race horses.

“One of my favorite facts is when Man of War, who is another legendary racehorse, passed away, the whole city of Lexington shut down for the day. So everyone, like kids, didn’t have to go to school so everyone could come and pay their respects to Man of War who lay in state, sort of like a U.S. president.”

On the history of humans grieving the loss of pets

“People have loved animals for millennia. My first chapter of my book is all about how in ancient Egypt, people would mummify their pets, they would bury [their pets] with them and hope to be reunited in the afterlife. There are animal mummies in Peru. There are ancient dog cemeteries in Siberia and Israel. People have loved animals for as long as they have welcomed animals into their homes and lives. And to me, if you’ve loved an animal, you also then grieve an animal. So it’s nothing new.”

“To me, the way that people mourn their pets and have these big mausoleums and statues and plots and pet cemeteries and portraits painted, it just shows to me the depth of their love and the joy that pets bring them.”

Complete Article HERE!

Life and death lessons from my very best friend

Luis Carrasco and his dog, Penelope, at the top of Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona, on Oct. 11, 2014.


I have always been afraid of death. Not of dying, but of the pain of losing those I love.

I was so preoccupied with it as a child, that ever since I can remember, I said I wanted to be a doctor. This delighted my mom and dad to no end, especially when I said the reason was that I wanted to help people. The truth was I wanted to keep them from dying.

For 45 years, through emotional detachment and good fortune, I had mostly avoided that pain I so dreaded. Until a week ago, when my luck ran out and my wife and I said goodbye to our dog, Penelope. She was almost 15.

It’s fitting that having learned so much from her in life, that she had one last thing to teach me.

But before I talk about the end, let me tell you about the beginning. My wife and I had been living together for less than six months, having recently moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, when she insisted that we get a dog.

Although I had a couple of pets growing up, they lived outside, and I felt little connection to them. In Mexico, having an indoor dog was unthinkable, it just wasn’t part of the culture. Penelope, as suits a proper Southern lady, would be raised differently.

Born Jan. 1, 2008, of a coonhound mother and a chocolate Lab father, she had a dozen siblings. About half of them were all white, the other all black. Six weeks after they were born, they barked and bounded in the back of a truck — a monochrome flurry of puppy energy — where Penelope and her brother’s mixed coats stood out.

My wife pointed at the pair, and I grabbed the male dog. She said she meant the female but that, “it was OK if we took that one.” As she always tells the story, with a tone that invokes the hand of providence, I apparently said, “No, no, let’s take the one you wanted.”

Thus, Penelope came into our lives, and, verily, I wanted to drown her in the bathtub.

We lived in a condo that shared walls with three other units and as she cried at night, what mattered to me most was that we were inconveniencing the neighbors. She peed inside the house, chewed anything she could get her paws on and demanded constant attention … for about a week.

Then, it felt longer, and now it feels shorter, but regardless, she very quickly settled into who she would be for the rest of her life: a sweet, relaxed dog who asked for very little and gave so much in return.

As I think about who I was then, and what I thought was important, I have a hard time understanding. I’m embarrassed at how sheltered I was and how even though I was 30 and married, I had so much growing up to do.

In those early days, Penelope’s biggest sin was forcing me out of my routine, out of my solipsistic comfort zone of not having to do anything for anyone else. Slowly, she not only made me a better person, but she opened my world in new ways.

Taking her for walks and going on hikes, her love for being out in nature was infectious. She took me from someone who thought twice about sitting on the grass for fear of an ant or two, to pushing through tick-infested bushes on the hunt for an elusive swimming hole. She really loved the water.

Being with her allowed me to get out of my head and enjoy myself. When I think of happiness, one of the images that always comes up is chasing Penelope, not a care in the world, as she ran around the hills of the Chickamauga Battlefield in Georgia. There are pictures, and they are silly.

Penelope sits by a lake inside Yellowstone National Park on June 1, 2021. (Luis Carrasco)
Penelope sits by a lake inside Yellowstone National Park on June 1, 2021.

She also helped me work on managing frustration, from her days when she was a rebellious puppy to her final months, when we dealt with the indignities that come with illness and old age. She could no longer walk by herself or properly control her bodily functions.

Penelope died on Aug. 20, and the pain of losing her has been at times overwhelming — emotionally and physically draining. There is a certain unreality to my days. Life had Penelope in it, so what is this now? My wife calls the whole thing surreal.

Yet, this is one more case of Penelope pushing me to grow up, to understand that death comes with pain, but it also comes with happiness. Even as tears still flow every time I think of her, afterward I am left feeling joy; blessed to have known her and for the time we shared.

I know someday the tears will stop, and the joy will remain.

Complete Article HERE!

What Does Animal Grief Tell Us About How They Understand Death?

Justin Gregg on Mourning Rituals and Death Wisdom

By Justin Gregg

“How strange that this sole thing that is certain and common to all exercises almost no influence on men, and that they are the furthest from regarding themselves as the brotherhood of death!”

Tahlequah was twenty years old when she gave birth to her daughter on July 24, 2018. Although the infant was full term, she died shortly after birth. Under normal circumstances, there would be an expert on hand to determine the cause of death. But these were not normal circumstances.

Immediately after the baby died, Tahlequah did something that would soon take the world by storm. She began carrying her dead child with her everywhere she went. She did this for weeks on end in what witnesses called a tour of grief. During this period, she rarely ate. When she slept, members of her family would take turns carrying the infant themselves. “We do know her family is sharing the responsibility… that she’s not always the one carrying it, that they seem to take turns,” said Jenny Atkinson, who watched the event unfold.

International news outlets traveled to Seattle, Washington, to bear witness to Tahlequah’s grief. There was an outpouring of sympathy from all over the world. People wrote poems about her. They posted drawings of her carrying her baby on Twitter. There was an op-ed in the New York Times from the author Susan Casey on how best to process the collective pain the public felt at watching this mother grieve.

On August 12, 2018, after seventeen days, Tahlequah finally let her infant go. Her body sank to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. A few days later, scientists from the Center for Whale Research at Friday Harbor in Washington confirmed that Tahlequah had moved on, hunting salmon off the coast of the San Juan Islands. She was back to her old self.

Are humans better off than other species because of our understanding of death?

If it wasn’t clear by now, Tahlequah is not a human. She is an orca—popularly known as the killer whale, the largest dolphin species. Jenny Atkinson was also not just a witness, but the director of the Whale Museum in Washington, closely monitoring this unprecedented event. There are many examples of this behavior by dolphins in the peer-reviewed scientific literature: mothers carrying the dead bodies of their infants on their rostrums (beaks), constantly pushing them toward the surface. Dolphins care for sick or ailing family members in this way, supporting them near the surface to help them breathe.

However, calf carrying typically only lasts a few hours. Which is what makes Tahlequah’s seventeen-day vigil so unique. It was so long that her own health was affected. She was noticeably skinnier after weeks of not eating, focusing instead on pushing her calf through the water. Even scientists trained to dispassionately observe animal behavior were visibly shaken. “I am sobbing,” said Deborah Giles, a research scientist for the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology. “I can’t believe she is still carrying her calf around.”

Many newspaper reporters described Tahlequah’s behavior as an example of mourning, as an indisputable example of animal grief. These stories were peppered with words like vigil and funeral, concepts that are bound tightly with an understanding of—and response to—death that we typically think of as the domain of humans, not animals. Some animal behavior experts, however, argued that describing calf carrying as a product of grief is nothing more than anthropomorphizing, attributing humanlike emotions and cognition to animals unjustly. “We dilute a real, powerful and observable human emotion by granting other animals the same emotions so freely without any scientific rigor,” argued the zoologist Jules Howard in The Guardian.

I don’t want to spend this chapter litigating the pitfalls of anthropomorphism, however. Instead, I want to tackle the specific problem of what death means to non-human animals. Because death means something to them. It meant something to Tahlequah. But what? This chapter is dedicated to figuring that out. And at the end of this chapter, even if we are sure that humans understand the meaning of death on a deeper level than Tahlequah or other animals—on such a deep level that we should reserve words like grief and mourning for our species alone—we are still left with a bigger question. Are humans better off than other species because of our understanding of death?


What do animals know about death? Darwin himself wondered about this, asking in The Descent of Man, “Who can say what cows feel, when they surround and stare intently on a dying or dead companion?” Almost 150 years later, the anthropologist Barbara J. King published a book—How Animals Grieve—citing countless examples of animals from across the taxonomic spectrum reacting to the death of a social partner or family member in ways similar to Tahlequah. Her examples range from animals we typically associate with intelligence, like dolphins, to animals we don’t. “Chickens, like chimpanzees, elephants, and goats, have a capacity for grief,” writes King.

The question of what animals know about death (and thus how they grieve) is part of comparative thanatology—a field of scientific inquiry attempting to understand animals’ death-knowledge. Comparative thanatologists want to know how an animal knows whether something is alive or dead, and what death means to them.

Ants, for example, know something about death because a dead one will release necromones—chemicals only present when decomposition sets in. When another ant smells necromones on a dead ant, it will carry away the body and dump it out of the nest. But you can trigger this same body-removal response (called necrophoresis) by spraying any ant with necromones and watch as other ants carry them kicking and screaming out of the nest. This does not suggest that ants have a particularly sophisticated knowledge of death, and only a very limited way of recognizing it.

But other animals react to death in ways instantly recognizable to us. The carrying of dead infants is not limited to dolphins. It is also commonly observed in most primates. Mothers will carry the body of their infant for days or even weeks at a time. This is often accompanied by behaviors that look, to a human, like grief: social withdrawal, mournful vocalizations, and a “failure to eat or sleep,” as Barbara King describes it. But grief, if that is indeed what we are witnessing, is not synonymous with an understanding of death.

Dr. Susana Monsó is a philosopher with the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna whose research focus is the concept of death in animals. She argues that “grief does not necessarily signal a [concept of death]—what it signals is a strong emotional attachment to the dead individual.” This sets up a scenario where there are different levels of sophistication when it comes to an animal’s understanding of death.

The most basic is called a minimal concept of death, a kind of death-knowledge that many—if not most—animals have. Monsó argues that for an animal to have a minimal concept of death, it need only be able to recognize two simple attributes: “1) non-functionality (death stops all bodily and mental functions), and 2) irreversibility (death is a permanent state).” An animal is not born knowing these things, but learns about death through exposure.

Grief, if that is indeed what we are witnessing, is not synonymous with an understanding of death.

Monsó explained to me that “for an animal to develop a minimal concept of death, she must first have some expectations regarding how beings in her surroundings typically behave.” For example, soon after being born, a young dolphin would quickly learn how living things behave. She would expect other dolphins to move their flukes up and down to swim through the water, chase and eat fish, and make lots of whistling and clicking sounds.

But when she first encounters a dead dolphin, she will notice that none of these things are occurring. And if she observes the dead dolphin long enough, she will learn that it’s a permanent state. Her mind will then be able to categorize the world into living and no-longer-living things. Monsó argues that a minimal concept of death is “relatively easy to acquire and fairly widespread in nature.” It does not require particularly complex cognition. Grief, then, can crop up as a rather straightforward emotional response to the permanent nonfunctionality of a social partner or family member.

It’s important to understand, however, that just because a dolphin can recognize death, it does not mean she understands her own mortality. Or that all living things must die. These are two additional levels of understanding that nonhuman animals lack. According to Monsó, “a very sophisticated notion of personal mortality also incorporates the notions of inevitability, unpredictability, and causality. They might acquire, through an accumulation of experiences with death, a notion that they can die, but probably not that they will die. I think that such a notion is probably restricted to humans.”

There seems to be consensus among scientists and philosophers that there is a fundamental difference between what animals and humans understand about death, especially the awareness of mortality itself. “Among animals,” writes King in How Animals Grieve, “we alone fully anticipate the inevitability of death.” This is called mortality salience: the scientific term for an ability to know that you—and everyone else—will one day die. I prefer the more poetic term death wisdom.

When my daughter was eight, we heard her crying in her room not long after we read her a bedtime story and said good night. She was sitting up in bed looking particularly miserable. She explained that she was thinking about death, and that one day she would lose her eyes and never open them again. Never see, or think, or feel anything anymore. She was scared, but also described a kind of existential dread that was new to her. I suspect that it’s a feeling you, too, recognize: the crush of sadness that overwhelms the mind when contemplating the reality of one’s own death. It was not something that my daughter had ever spoken about—or experienced—before that moment. And it was heartbreaking to watch.

Complete Article HERE!

Mourning Elephant Mother Carries Dead Calf in Weeks-Long Ritual

By Rich Co

According to a LiveScience feature, asian mourning elephant mothers, much like their African counterparts, perform rituals for their dead calf.

New research shows that Asian mourning elephant mothers, similar to their African counterparts, mourn their deceased by carrying the dead calf in their trunks for days or sometimes weeks.

Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and conservation biology institute, along with Nachiketha Sharma of the Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study, explained that Asian elephants (Eliphaz Maximus) are social creatures that exhibit emotional responses to the loss of one of their conspecifics.

Pokharel and Sharma, co-authors of the study, pointed out that understanding how elephants react to death could have far-reaching implications for their conservation.

The two researchers observed that people who see an elephant react to a dead relative develop some sense of kinship, compassion, and empathy toward that species.

They added that anything that directly connects people could pave the way for coexistence in elephant ranging countries.

African Elephants and Asian Elephants

The researchers pointed out that African bush elephants (Loxodonta Africana) have been observed to react emotionally when a member of the herd dies.

The elephants’ reactions include approaching the corpse and touching it with their drunkards, kicking at the carcass, and standing nearby as if standing guard.

However, Asian elephants live in forested habitats, the researchers point out, which makes it more difficult to observe the animal.

Brian Aucone, senior vice president for biological sciences at the Denver Zoo, pointed out that Asian elephants can be up to 100 feet away from the observer and the observer still can not see the elephants because the forest is so dense. Aucone is not involved in the study.

Studying Videos

The two researchers, along with Raman Sukumar, a co-author, decided to conduct the observation using YouTube, a video platform. In their search for keywords related to Asian elephants and death, the team found 39 videos of 24 instances between 2010 and 2021 in which Asian elephants reacted to the loss of a herd member.

The search found only 4% for semi-captive elephants, i.e., animals working in the timber industry or tourist parks in Asia. 16% are captive elephants and the rest, 80%, of the videos show wild elephants.

The research team reports that some of the most noticeable behaviors in the videos are when a calf dies. In five of the 12 videos, an adult female is seen carrying the calf. Judging by the condition of the corpse, the mother elephant had been carrying the dead calf for days or weeks.

Other common elephant reactions seen in the videos include restlessness or alertness when elephants are near the corpse.

The elephants also show exploratory movements, such as approaching or examining the body, or touching and smelling it. Aucone pointed out that elephants communicate through their sense of smell, so it is not surprising that the elephant sniffs the corpse.

Aucone also pointed out that this is similar to cases where the zoo has to euthanize older elephants due to illness or infirmity. The staff gives the herd a chance to say goodbye to their fallen member. The survivors often sniffed the deceased elephant or put their trunks to its mouth, which is a social behavior among elephants.

Complete Article HERE!

Life after living

— pet-loss professionals help people work through their grief

By Tracey Tong

When her beloved golden retriever Shelle died of kidney disease, Sharon Van Noort didn’t get to make the final arrangements. “I wasn’t told where she went, and what was done with her body,” she says – just that she’d be taken care of. “Back then, it wasn’t acknowledged that families needed care too.” Without closure, Van Noort continues to grieve her companion – 33 years later.

“Taking the time needed to say goodbye, and having a veterinarian who truly understands the importance of the cherished pet, make a huge difference in moving forward through the grieving process,” says Faith Banks, a certified hospice and palliative-care veterinarian and pet-loss professional in the West End. “If grief is not processed and worked through, it sits and waits for the next opportunity to strike.”

Through the experiences of other pet owners, Van Noort found a way to right a wrong. Six years ago, Helen Hobbs, co-founder of the pet funeral service Pets at Peace Toronto, licensed her business and Van Noort opened Pets at Peace North in Orillia.

Faith Banks and Faithful Pet Memorial offer nose prints of deceased pets, as well as teeth, fur, paw prints and bags of ashes

“Making funeral arrangements can give closure, which is so important,” says Van Noort, who has 25 years’ experience as a respite provider in the children’s mental health field. Like Hobbs and Banks, Van Noort looks after bereaved families as much as she cares for their pets.

Banks, who founded Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services in 2012, heads an all-female team of 20 veterinarians, hospice-care coordinators and aftercare providers. She opened Faithful Pet Memorial, a division of MMVHS, in February.

Faithful Pet Memorial is the first Toronto facility to offer pet aquamation, a water-based cremation process that, Banks says, has become “increasingly popular as concern for the environment grows.” Compared to flame-based cremation, aquamation uses 90 percent less energy, leaves one-tenth the carbon footprint and does not produce fossil fuels, greenhouse gases or mercury.

Faith Banks and Faithful Pet Memorial offer nose prints of deceased pets, as well as teeth, fur, paw prints and bags of ashes.

From their respective locations, Hobbs and Van Noort have provided aftercare services for a variety of pets – dogs, cats, reptiles, rodents, fish, birds, even domesticated farm animals – some species of which are not accommodated at other companies. As part of their jobs, they see a lot of grieving families. “Clients have disclosed to me that the death of their pet has affected them emotionally more than the passing of an extended family member,” says Van Noort.

Banks has encountered similar expressions. “Many people,” she says, “will tell me their relationship with their pet is purer, far less complicated and much more fulfilling than with certain family members. For some, it is akin to losing a child.”

Faith Banks and Faithful Pet Memorial offer nose prints of deceased pets, as well as teeth, fur, paw prints and bags of ashes.

The pet-loss experience is nearly universal, says Van Noort, and most people “have a story to share.” And she is happy to listen. “I encourage them to tell me about their pet and show me photos. Even if I had not cared for their pet, they can call me anytime to have a chat. There is a staff member at a local veterinary clinic who will often call me on behalf of a client who is having difficulty processing their pet’s death or impending death. If I am able to help, I feel honoured to be of assistance.”

Van Noort also gets referrals from past clients and friends. Most times, she hears from them after the pets have already died, but more owners are pre-planning. “They know their pet is elderly or very ill,” she says, “and they want to know ahead of time what their options are.”

Faith Banks and Faithful Pet Memorial offer nose prints of deceased pets, as well as teeth, fur, paw prints and bags of ashes.

As with any type of aftercare service, each day at Pets at Peace is different. Van Noort offers numerous options: preparation for burial at a pet cemetery of their choice, where a marker can be erected; or individual or communal cremation. Pet parents can also request to have ashes returned in an urn or a less traditional product, such as a pewter keychain urn, or in ash-infused glass jewelry. Even if a family chooses communal cremation, they can still have a clay paw print created. Although she is careful not to make any suggestions, Van Noort says that these memorial items usually become treasured possessions.

Set to retire after 19 years, Hobbs is preparing to close Pets at Peace Toronto at the end of the month. Van Noort, who says she has also reached “retirement age,” has no plans to leave the business: “I can’t think of not doing one of the things that is so rewarding for me and important for pet families.”

Faith Banks and Faithful Pet Memorial offer nose prints of deceased pets, as well as teeth, fur, paw prints and bags of ashes.

The death of her 12-year-old German shepherd/husky mix Spud in 2021 confirmed her dedication to her work. “I provided Spud’s aftercare, grooming his paws, doing ink paw prints and preparing him for transportation to the crematorium,” says Van Noort, who also has a 14-year-old border collie, Rider. “I realized I hadn’t provided him with any different type of care than I would provide to the pets entrusted to me. I wouldn’t want any less for others as I would have for myself.”

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