The Myth About Elephants You Need To Stop Believing

There’s a legend about elephants that many seem to believe, mostly because if it is indeed true, then there’s a location out there that can be considered an El Dorado of sorts, only with ivory instead of gold. According to the legend, there’s an elephant graveyard filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of elephant bones, where old elephants instinctively go when they are on the verge of death, per British Pathe. It is said that old elephants go to the graveyard in order to die away from their herd so as not to hinder other elephants’ progress. The story is so popular that even Disney’s “Lion King” depicted the graveyard, located on a wasteland, full of elephant bones.

Countless explorers and hunters have gone to great different lengths to find the location of the legendary elephant graveyard, hoping to find massive amounts of ivory, which comes from elephant tusks and is a very valuable commodity. To this day, however, no one has absolute proof of the elephant graveyard’s whereabouts, most likely because it doesn’t exist.

The truth about elephants' final resting places

It is true that elephant bones have been found in groups, but the number is far less than the hundreds suggested by the myth. It is typical to find a maximum of five elephant carcasses in a single location, but this is not because the elephants choose the certain location as a graveyard, per My Animals. Their final resting place has something to do with their teeth and their survival instincts.

As elephants age, they go through six sets of molars. The final set of molars wear out at around 60 years, preventing an elephant from eating solid food. Thus, it will go to a location, usually near a water source, where it can hydrate and eat softer food, according to Chrislin. Elephants that are injured or are malnourished also go to a water source where they eventually perish if their condition doesn’t improve. This is the main reason why elephant carcasses are found together in one location.

Elephant carcasses are sometimes found in groups

There have been a few instances where elephant bones have been found in groups of more than five, which is unusual, but this does not give credence to the elephant graveyard myth. One of the reasons for this grouping is drought, which can quickly weaken and kill elephants. There’s a more sinister explanation, however, and that is poachers, per Elephant Facts.

Poachers are responsible for approximately 20,000 elephant deaths each year, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Because of this, there may be instances where groups of elephants are found dead with their tusks removed, as poachers sell ivory at high prices, often on the illegal black market. In March 2021, the International Union for Conservation of Nature added the African elephant to the list of threatened and endangered species because of the species’ dwindling number.

The fact is, there is no elephant graveyard where old elephants go to die peacefully, and the truth of elephants dying by the hands of poachers is heartbreaking, to say the least.

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