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Heartwarming film questions whether elephants have souls; reveals they may be more loving and compassionate than humans


(NaturalNews) Elephants are some of the world's most majestic creatures, and it turns out they have more in common with humans than most people believe.

A film called Soul of the Elephant reveals these gentle creatures to be every bit as loving and compassionate as humans. Husband-and-wife filmmakers Beverly and Dereck Joubert set out to determine how a pair of bull elephants died, after finding their bodies in the Selinda Spillway in Botswana.

Unfortunately, stumbling across elephant skeletons is not unusual in this part of the world, because these animals' ivory tusks make them the subject of widespread poaching. However, these two particular elephants were found with their tusks intact. Even though seeing dead animals is always a sad occasion, Dereck Joubert said that the fact that their tusks were intact was "a cause for celebration."

After examining their teeth, the Jouberts determined that the elephants were around 70 and nearing the end of their lives, but could not understand why both had died in the same place and apparently at the same time. They spent the next two years trying to reconstruct the lives of these animals, and the film outlines their fascinating quest and the eventual conclusion they reached.

The couple paddled all the way down a river in the Selinda Reserve, where 7,000 elephants live. They were able to study the elephants, who seemed to accept them, and allowed them to film them. During their time with these animals, they saw lots of situations that illustrated that elephants aren't very different from people when it comes to emotions.

Elephants are family-focused

In one episode that many parents will be familiar with, they witnessed an elephant mother denying her calf milk until his temper tantrum stopped. On other occasions they observed elephants snoring.

They observed that the elephants are also very family-focused creatures. When a baby elephant is born, the rest of its herd gathers around to meet it and marvel at it. When a mother elephant lost her calf at one point while crossing the floodplains and lions closed in, a group of her relatives helped her rescue her offspring just in the nick of time.

Beverly Joubert said: "You only have to look at how profound and gentle they are. They're only aggressive when they have to save themselves or their offspring. Being in the presence of an elephant is very moving."

Elephants cry, mourn the loss of loved ones

Until 2014, it was legal to hunt male elephants in Botswana, and killing fields are scattered throughout the country. When other elephants stumble across these sites and see the remains of their fellow animals, they experience great distress.

The Jouberts saw a group of elephants find such a field and stop to examine the bodies, although it's unclear if they were doing so out of curiosity over what happened or simply remembering an old friend. They say the elephants' reactions immediately called to mind a human family in mourning. Elephants seem to feel emotions similar to those of humans, and their brains are nearly five times the size of ours.

In 2014, an elephant named Raju proved beyond a doubt that animals do, in fact, have very real feelings. He was kept bound in spiked chains for 50 years and abused by his owner, who paraded him around as a begging prop. When a team of wildlife experts and enforcement officers freed him from his shackles, a flood of tears streamed down his face and he began to weep in relief, stunning even the most science-minded vets who were present.

Sadly, the numbers of these compassionate creatures are dwindling. According to a 2013 study published in PLoS ONE, our planet's population of forest elephants was reduced by 62 percent in the years between 2002 and 2011, and most of these deaths can be blamed on poachers in the ivory trade.

Some people who hunt these and other animals try to justify their actions by claiming that their victims lack any feelings, but nothing could be further from the truth. As Beverly Joubert pointed out, elephants are only aggressive when the need for self-defense arises, making them quite possibly more compassionate than humans, some of whom kill animals just for fun.

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