What Happens When an Elephant Dies

by on January 11, 2010

in Wildlife

Elephants fightingThe lightning was an omen.  A cracking flash was the conflict.  Just as quickly as it had started it was over.  Trumpeting, crashing and the thunderous force of two pachyderms raging against one another had given way to silence.  There was no more conflict, only peace.

lions eating elephantThe great bull had not lain in his final resting place for long as the carnivores filtered through the bushes towards him.  Ravenous teeth sheared the carcass open and bellies bulged with indulgent glut.

The maggots were quick to strike as well.  A noisy waterfall of activity, this festering frenzy encased the lower body with their microvillus compounds and bacteria.  It was a scene.  For some it was sad, others tragic and for many repulsive.  But for the bull himself, it was his final contribution to the mystical bushveld he had roamed for decades.

He was not dead.  He was alive to those around him.  Serving the best interests of a thriving trophic chain.  He was of service to the life that fed off of him and in turn proliferated themselves into the bacteria that would stimulate the growth to feed his scattered offspring and his equally hungry counterparts.  In life there are options, possibilities and an ever shifting tide of change.  In death there is finality and the tangible gift back to the earth


By day 7 the great bull was only a skeleton of his previous grandeur.  A Leathery hide retained some of its shape and his large tusks protruded awkwardly into the air.  The lions had long since left and now hyenas and vultures picked at the scant remains.  There he lay, like a monument.  His story would serve its metaphor for now, but as with life it will someday be forgotten.  The remnants of his existence however, will be seen in the new leaves of spring, the stormy winds of change and the sunlit faces of future life in the bushveld.

Filmed by: Adam Bannister
Written and Photographed by: Rich Laburn

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4 comment on “What Happens When an Elephant Dies”

    Anne Weprin says:

    Incredible life cycle (African style) event to have had the opportunity to witness; thank you for sharing.

    richard says:

    It is an incredible life cycle, interesting and tough, at times, to watch.

    K Meadows says:

    Fascinating. Very articulate. Thank You

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