Babalala was named after the Borehole 5km south-east of Vlakteplaas on the banks of the Dungile Spruit, in South Africa. He was recognised by prominent v-shaped tear in his left earlobe, with several square shaped notches further down the earlobe. A smaller v-shaped notch on the right ear lobe towards the bottom of the lobe was less prominent but is still visible. His right tusk appears to have been broken at some stage and is considerably shorter then the left tusk. He was photographed for the first time by Dewald Keet, state vet department. He hasn’t been spotted for a while and is now presumed dead.

Elephants have strong social bonds and good memories but it is now known whether they can experience grief in the same way as humans. They certainly seem to have a fascination with their dead. They will approach carcasses, touching and smelling them and sometimes trying to revive them. Mothers have been seen carrying their dead babies around for several days. Elephants will investigate old bones, pick them up and move them around. They are also known to cover their fallen comrades with branches and debris. Other dead animals, including lion or even trampled hunters, may also be treated in this way.

Text: South African National Parks
Photo copyright: Dewald Keet