Elephants at Play and Some Amazing FactsKeith
Elephants playing video and Some Amazing Facts
Elephants continue to fascinate both scientists and general observers alike. They are recognised as being among the most intelligent creatures on earth. In fact, some enthusiasts believe that their intelligence rivals that of human beings. Aristotle even said of elephants: “The beast which passeth all others in wit and mind”.
The elephant’s brain is the most sizeable at a mass of just over 5kg. Although the largest whale is 20 times the body size of an elephant, its brain is just under twice the size. The need for such a large and complex organ becomes clear when we consider the behaviours and abilities of these animals. Elephants are capable of a range of emotions, including joy, playfulness, grief and mourning. Also elephants can learn new facts and behaviours, copy sounds they hear, self-medicate, play with humour, perform artistic activities, use tools and display compassion and self-awareness.
Part of the reason that elephants possess such a superior level of intelligence is the structure of their brain. Their neocortex is highly convoluted, as it is in humans, apes and some dolphins. This is generally accepted to be an indication of complex intelligence. The cortex is thick and comprises many neurons. The elephant is one of the few creatures (along with human beings) that is not born with survival instincts, but needs to learn these during the first years. The brain is specially designed to accomplish this sort of life learning. Elephants and humans have a similar lifespan, and approximately 10 years, is allowed for them to learn before they are considered to be adults. The lessons learnt include how to feed, use tools and understand their place in their social structure. Elephants capacity for memory and emotions is remarkable and is due to the well-developed hippocampus. This is also the area responsible for emotional flashbacks and is the reason that elephants experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The insight and intelligence of the elephant is particularly strong in their ability to mourn their dead. This behaviour has only previously been noted in humans. In fact, recently deceased elephants will receive a burial ceremony, while those who are already reduced to a skeleton are still paid respect by passing herds. The burial ceremony is marked by deep rumblings while the dead body is touched and caressed by the other members trunks.
Intelligence is also manifested in the elephant’s ability to self-medicate. When a pregnant mother is due to give birth, she will chew on the leaves of the tree from the Boraginaceae family to bring on labour.
Another ability that indicates superior intellect is elephants ability to play and display a sense of humour. Games include throwing a stick at an object, passing something from one to another, or squirting water out of the trunk in a fountain. Elephants in zoos have even been seen stealing onlookers caps and hiding them in playful teasing.