Thinking Citizen Blog — Wildlife (III) Elephants — So Human In So Many Ways
Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day
Today’s Topic: Wildlife (III) Elephants — So Human In So Many Ways
As a child, I loved elephants. My favorite stuffed animal ever was an elephant. I loved Babar. And I loved visiting the elephant house at the National Zoo which was just a few miles down the street. Why did I identify with these huge beasts? What made them seem so human? Was it the sadness in their eyes? Was it sympathy for the burden of carrying all that weight around all day? Was it the yearning for being as strong as an elephant? Whatever it was I still love them and today a post focusing on this wonderful animal. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE ELEPHANT BRAIN — the ratio of the infant to the adult brain
1. For Aristotle the elephant surpassed all other animals in “wit and wisdom” And now modern science has provided lots of evidence to back up his claim.
2. “Comparing brain size at birth to the size of a fully developed adult’s brain is one way to estimate how much an animal relies on learning as opposed to instinct.
3. “The majority of mammals are born with a brain close to 90% of the adult weight, while humans are born with 28%, bottle nose dolphins with 42.5%, chimpanzees with 54%, and elephants with 35%.”
NB: “This may indicate that elephants require the second highest amount of learning while developing (next to humans), and that their behavior is less instinctual than taught.”
HUMAN-LIKE QUALITIES PLUS A COMPARISON TO WHALES
1. “Grief, learning, mimicry, play, self-awareness, altruism” — they do it too!
2. “Use of tools, compassion, cooperation, memory, communication.” — ditto!
3. “With a mass of just over 5 kg (11 lb), an elephant’s brain has more mass than that of any other land animal, and although the largest whales have body masses twenty times those of a typical elephant, a whale’s brain is barely twice the mass of an elephant’s brain.”
ELEPHANT TOURISM IN THAILAND, MILITARY HELICOPTERS IN THE SUDAN
1. One of the most disturbing images I have ever seen in my life is that of a young elephant from Burma being “tamed” to supply the elephant tourism industry in Thailand. “Tamed” is a euphemism for being beaten with a large stick. I included a photograph of this in a post back in 2013 and will not reproduce it here, but it is available by clicking on the first link below.
2. In the southern Sudan military helicopters are being used to shoot down herds of elephants to meet the insatiable Asian demand for ivory.
3. In Tanzania, poisoning their favorite food (watermelons) does the job no less effectively.
GENERAL BACKGROUND ON ELEPHANTS
1. Live up to 70 years, herbivorous, trunks used for breathing, delivering food and water to the mouth, and moving objects. Ear flaps used to maintain body temperature and communicate. Tusks are used as weapons and for moving things and digging.
2. Three species: African bush elephant, African forest elephant, and Asian. The African species have relatively larger ears and concave backs whereas the Asian species have smaller ears and convex or level backs.
3. Communicating by touch, sight, smell, and sound, they can reach distances of up to 10 miles through infrasound (very low frequency) and up to 20 miles via seismic waves.
NB: Elephant society is matriarchal with male bulls leaving the family group roughly at puberty and “live alone or with other males.” The matriarch is usually succeeded by her eldest daughter.
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Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.