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Elephant Says Goodbye To An Old Friend (PHOTO)

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"There is one universal experience, that's death. That is something we are all going to experience at some distance in the lives of loved ones, strangers and friends, people around us and certainly our own."

Journalist Scott Simon's words are probably some of the most poignant when paired with this heartbreaking photo of an elephant standing guard over her deceased friend.

elephant botswana

This incredible photograph was taken by John Chaney as part of the 2012 National Geographic Traveler photo contest. Chaney wrote that the female elephant in the image, which was taken in 2007, stood guard over the body of her friend for hours to pay her respects, chasing off birds and predators. She then wrapped her trunk around the other's tusk in a heartbreaking goodbye.

"I think it should be something we are comfortable talking about," Simon said in August following the death of his mother. "Insofar as we can talk about it comfortably, we can reset the clocks in our own lives. If we can accept death and understand it and know, whether we are 10 or 30 or 60 or 80, that it's just over the horizon."

Sadly, this scene is only reflective of the growing peril African elephants face. The international ivory trade is thriving and poachers are going to extreme lengths to hunt and kill the giants for their tusks. Wildlife conservation groups estimate upwards of 35,000 elephants were killed in 2012.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced a sweeping, $80 million effort to stop elephant slaughter.

"Unless the killing stops, African forest elephants are expected to be extinct within 10 years. I can't even grasp what a great disaster this is ecologically, but also for everyone who shares this planet," she said.

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