I love elephants. I would like to have an elephant as a pet, and, as there is no specific rule against elephants in my apartment building, I figure this is quite feasible, once I locate one.
Recently there was a news story about a scientific study in Zimbabwe which demonstrated that elephants, unlike most animals, immediately understand the purpose of human pointing. That is, their attention will be directed to the place that a human trainer points to with his or her arm and hand, even in advance of any training for this purpose. This was considered a real discovery, and perhaps it is, but on consideration it doesn’t seem too surprising that an elephant would see a human arm kind of like it sees the outstretched trunks of fellow elephants, and would pay attention to it.
I’ve never met an elephant, but my own affection for them seems to date back to when I was about ten or eleven years old, when I read a book titled “White Gold,” a kind of history of the African ivory trade. I was reading anything that came within my arms reach at that age, and it was just another book I got out of the library. But it left an impression upon me. I especially remember the writing within this book on the intelligence of elephants. The writer went into some detail on the sophistication of an elephant’s trunk, on how many quite fine motor tasks an elephant can perform with this remarkable appendage. A relationship was theorized between the brain strength required to power such a complex organ or limb and the general intellectual capacity of the elephant. Continue reading On the Intelligence of Elephants