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Elephant self-awareness

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, November 2nd, 2006 at 9:35 am in Elephants, Self-awareness.

A wire story Wednesday from the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service described a study from researchers at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta that suggests elephants can look into a mirror and recognize themselves.

According to a story by Jamie Talan of Newsday, "Humans used to think themselves unique in their capacity for self-awareness and empathy. Then came evidence that the Great Apes share in this same ability. And then dolphins."

And now elephants.

"This ability to recognize themselves in a mirror suggests a higher level of self-awareness," said Diana Reiss, a senior research scientist at the Wildlife Conservatory Society in New York, and a co-author of the study.

So why do we keep elephants in zoos, in small dirt enclosures with a couple of toys?

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5 Responses to “Elephant self-awareness”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    you suck eggs

  2. Pat in Antioch Says:

    You know Gary…..even as a child (MANY years ago) I felt sorry for the animals in zoos….Tillie the elephant in our Scranton(PA) one especially. I was fascinated by the story you mentioned when I read it… gives a whole new perspective to animals in general…..we have NO idea what they really feel &/or see….they deserve SO much better than what we give them. When WILL we learn??

    Pat in Antioch

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I remember a really touching scene from an Animal Planet show a couple of years ago. An animal sanctuary was getting a new elephant they’d rescued from a terrible life. There were already several elephants there in the compound.

    As the new one was brought close to the gate, another elephant began calling, and the new one called back. Keepers were at first concerned that some kind of rivalry was there, but when the new one was let inside, the two hurried together, and began kind of “whimpering” and rubbing their trunks together, etc. It was obviously a love fest. Sanctuary staff had never seen this before, so suddenly, but did research and learned that these two elephants had been close friends in another situation some *twenty* years before, then had been separated and each had been treated badly. They remembered each other at first sight, and became inseparable again.

    Linda in Concord

  4. Judith Says:

    The book “When Elephants Weep” by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson addresses this question of animal awareness and emotions.

    There have been other studies published more recently that should cause us all to question our ethics with regard to animal treatment.

  5. Bed Bugs Extermination Says:

    Well at least bed bugs are actually revitalizing the economy, the exterminators are making a killing.

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