Elephants travel to the Anthony home. (Photo by Thula Thula Game Reserve.)

In case you needed another reason to care about wildlife, here’s one: If you devote your life to elephants, they might come to your funeral. Or anyway that seems to be what happened for conservationist and “elephant whisperer” Lawrence Anthony, who died in March. A few days after his death, two herds of elephants filed through the bush to their friend’s home, where they appeared to stand vigil for two days, according to Anthony’s family.

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Anthony had spent time living with the elephants, in order to care for traumatized animals who were considered violent and unruly. But at the time of his death, of a heart attack, Anthony was living in a house on the Thula Thula game reserve in South Africa. The park’s elephants hadn’t visited the house in a year and a half, but Anthony’s son Dylan says that the herds traveled 12 hours to arrive shortly after his father’s death.

If you’re scoffing instead of sniffling right now (BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO SOUL I GUESS) consider this: Elephants are well-known for their grieving rituals when family members die. If they thought of Anthony as a sort of tiny, weird-nosed cousin — and why wouldn’t they, since he lived with and cared for them? — then it makes sense that they would give him the same treatment. And if animals can truly consider us a part of their family, it can mean only one thing: We owe a lot of elephants a lot of birthday gifts.

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