Opinion » Readers feedback
Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Other intelligent animals on the Earth

Our reader: Der Voron
Elephants rule?

We humans are certainly an intelligent species -- if we don't take in account World Wars I and II and some other unpleasant things like say Communism or the infamous Malleus maleficarum. Another intelligent species on the Earth are possibly elephants. (There are also dolphins and some genera of whales, but they live in seas and oceans, and our aim in this article is to review land intelligent creatures.)

Here is why.

First and main, maybe elephants are, by their innate abilities, as clever as humans or even cleverer.

Elephants' brain weighs about 11 pounds, some 3 times bigger than that of humans -- none of other land animals have such a brain, including any primates and such giants like rhinos and hippos -- and more importantly, an elephant can creatively (with purpose) use objects that it didn't see in its life before –- something that a human cannot do.

An example is given by Pliny the Elder, ancient Roman writer, in his Natural History. An elephant, recently captured in the wild and brought to Roma, was fighting with a rhino, and suddenly he saw a brush with sharp metallic rods that was lying around. The elephant immediately picked it up and, with the rods, pricked out the rhino's eyes. After that the elephant trampled the blind and disoriented rival.

Nobody taught this elephant how to use knives or other objects with sharp edges or angles, and he'd never seen such objects in his life, having been captured in the wild. How did he understand how to use, not namely a knife, but just a brush with rods? Would an adult savage, who'd never seen a knife, guess how to use it for fight -- not speaking of brushes with rods?

But perhaps that was a very special elephant? Observations in reserves and in the wild show that all elephants are able to use different objects for different aims, although nobody there teaches them to do this. For example, elephants can use sticks to remove ticks from their ears, in the places where they cannot get those with their trunks, and to scratch their backs, also in the places which they cannot get with the trunks. When dogs bother an elephant in a zoo or a reserve, it can use sticks to drive them off. Also elephants use palm branches as large fans, to refresh themselves with the air.

Elephants use to bury their dead by covering the bodies with leaves, branches, and twigs; while it is not the burying proper (when a pit is dug out and the corpse is put therein), it is still a big step ahead in comparison with just leaving corpses alone to the poachers. You will say: but we people do BURY our dead, while elephants just cover them with leaves or branches! No, not always. For example, so-called Karamoja tribe in Africa don't bury their dead at all, they just leave the cadavers lying to scavengers and poachers; although Karamoja are humans and thus intelligent. So are some other tribes in different areas of the Earth.

If a group of elephants meet a skeleton of a deceased elephant, then each elephant takes a bone from the skeleton and brings it away, then hides it in the sole or under bushes. This was not only photographed, but also videoed.

The magazine Cyril and Methodius communicates the following about the elephants:

That they sometimes defend remains of their deceased family members;

That they surround dying elephants and put trunks' ends into their (dying elephants') mouths, like if saying them farewell;

That they thoroughly smell the body, perhaps trying to find the cause of the death (elephants have a very developed scent).

Some elephants were even observed to shed tears over the dead body of their deceased fellow, bury him or her, and return to the grave for months and even years to come. (This information comes from Chris Musem, State Representative of the organization called Maine Friends of Animals).

Hans Schomburgk, a famous African hunter and explorer, gives an example of the elephants burying their dead. Once his fellow had to kill an elephant who became dangerous. The corpse has been removed to avoid possible infection. A day later they observed that another elephants have brought its shoulder blade bone and put in the place where this elephant died. (Further Mr. Schomburgk writes that during a safari they got to know from the locals that an elephant has killed a man, who was neither his owner, nor a "friend" of this animal, and since that time each day comes to the place where it killed him and stays there about two hours each day. They decided to check this and it got to be true: the elephant stayed about two hours and right where this tragedy took place.)

Johannes Hagenbeck, a famous German explorer of animals, tells about a domesticated elephant who suddenly got furious. To calm the elephant down, his owner decided to use his timidity. So he covered his head with a black kerchief and headed to the furious animal. But the animal didn't give a chance to intimidate it. The elephant run onto the man and killed him.

After that, people approached the dead body and removed the kerchief from the head. When the elephant saw the face of his dead owner, he at once calmed down and began fondling the body with his trunk, and cried mournfully. Finally he dug a pit in the earth, put the body into it and adorned the grave with the leaves that he plucked from the tree that stood nearby.

Another example from Pliny the Elder: An elephant was punished for not following all of his trainer's orders. The following night this elephant was observed voluntarily repeating the exercises to improve his performance skills. Could a dog, as clever as it might be, do this, voluntarily?

You may ask, if elephants possess such an intelligence, why didn't they create their own civilization?

Because of their incredible strength, which allows them to vanquish, without artificial weapons, almost any enemy except a man armed with fire arms -- and because they lack hands. Elephants have a strong and flexible trunk, but it is like having one hand instead of two. What could humans do if all of them would have just one hand instead of two?

Another question that you might ask: But when humans began mass killing elephants several decades ago, why did such intelligent elephants not begin creating weapons for self-protection?

Because humans required several hundred thousand years to learn to create weapons (from stone axes to today's cruise missiles), and elephants, having just met such a dangerous enemy like human hunters, can't just begin creating firearms in these short time period. If X is twice as clever as Y, and Y created Z in 200,000 years, this doesn't mean that X will create Z in several decades. Probably in 50,000 to 100,000 years.

Perhaps, if humans could learn the elephants' "language", i.e., the method they use for communication, then they could borrow many interesting ideas from these giant creatures.

(I dare to affirm that elephants were possibly created by extraterrestrials. Let us take a look at the elephants' trunk. Its strength is just incredible, and it consists of about 4,000 muscles and is in fact an elongated "union" of the upper lip and nose. Imagine how few muscles all of other species have in their upper lip and nose, and how weak these muscles are. No other existing and extinct mammals genera, families, and orders show a similarly fast evolution of an organ.

What may these facts, the impossibility of developing such a trunk in an evolutional way, and the elephants' intellect, mean? (This puzzle may include mammoths, as their frozen cadavers in Siberia show that they also had giant brain and trunk.) They may mean that elephants and mammoths, when they first appeared some 5 million years ago, as paleontology data say, were genetically engineered by intelligent beings. Engineered by Extraterrestrials, since there were no other intelligent beings on the Earth at that time.)

Above it was told that elephants can use different objects for different aims. Hence we can conclude that elephants have at least reached the level of early Homo Sapiens or Homo Sapiens Sapiens, in their social development, or the level or most backward tribes who don't even know fire, any buildings, and often don't know even clothes. (Do not confuse early Homo Sapiens with Homo Sapiens Sapiens, that is us humans, and with Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis, that is another intelligent species of hominoids, who died out about 30 thousand years ago, after about 10 thousand years co-existence with Homo Sapiens). Due to elephants' strength, which allows them, for example, to break a tree with 50 inches diameter or to uproot such trees), they don't have such a need of artificial tools like different species of Homo Sapiens had. Example: a usual elephant, that is an elephant who didn't train on purpose how to kill tigers, alone can kill several tigers who would attack it, while several untrained humans or intelligent hominiods could hardly kill one tiger.

Here is however what may happen after humans invent antigravs (antigravitation flying devices) and leave the planet of Earth in the quest for better natural conditions (as you know, one of worst conditions on our planet is too frequent earthquakes that destroy what has been created during years of hardworking. An example: the earthquake in San  Francisco in the beginning of 20th century that turned this thriving city into ruins):

After this the elephants will become the strongest and most intelligent species on the Earth, if humans certainly don't eradicate them before leaving the Earth. There are also hominoid apes, but their development doesn't allow them to compete with elephants and many other animals, just like several tens of thousands years ago our own development didn't allow us humans to compete well not only with elephants but with say tigers. The latters, for instance, caused big troubles to the people in India yet in the 19th century.

After elephants got acquainted with Homo Sapiens Sapiens and his methods, there is a big probability that they may use such methods against hominoid apes (it is very sad, but they use these even against humans in some backward areas. It quite often happens that an elephant wounded by hunters begins killing people and destroy villages, and it is not an easy task to stop or kill such an animal, because of its intelligence. This is one of the reasons why there are only about ten thousand rhinos remaining in Africa, while over half a million elephants. Another reason is elephants' strength. But, in fact, who makes elephants such killers, if not the hunters who are able to kill an elephant just for its tusks?). So -- again, if Homo Sapiens Sapiens leaves the Earth and doesn't eradicate elephants before leaving it -- there is a big chance that next dominating intelligent species on the Earth will be the elephants.

Perhaps a similar thing already took place in Earth's history: previous intelligent species had left it, and the time for humans has come. Perhaps also that recently discovered species called "dinosaur from Alberta", which skull has an incredibly big size and which therefore is thought to have been intelligent, also left the Earth and not died out with another dinosaurs. Alas, we cannot verify this for sure...

To be continued

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