Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Elephant empathy


A couple of days ago, I wrote about evolution of the human personality, study of animal behaviour and social life, and Lord Buddha's Jataka Tales. Here’s an arresting report from The Economist (July 27th 2006).

Elephants, proverbially, never forget. This photograph suggests that they may even remember their dead. It comes from a paper about to be published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science by Iain Douglas-Hamilton, a Kenyan zoologist, and his colleagues. The question of whether intelligent mammals such as elephants have similar emotional reactions to those of people is much debated in zoological circles. Mr Douglas-Hamilton's researchers were able to observe the reaction of other elephants to the death of Eleanor, the matriarch of a group called the First Ladies. The picture shows an elephant from a neighbouring group pulling at her body. On several occasions before she died, other elephants had tried to help her stand up. Such behaviour is in contrast to that shown by most animals to sick or dead individuals. They just ignore them.

3 comments:

dr.alistair said...

well, there is something to be said for the power of emotions. if those elephants are feeling grief then our intellect says the are intellegent.
why not.

Hannelie said...

Rama, I have seen and read lots about the elephants in the wild and I truly believe they are more intellegent then what we as humans know or expect.
I've once seen video footage of how they copy humans who greet each other by shaking hands and they started to lift their big foot up to mimics shaking hands with their handlers, they were not taught this.

kathy said...

awww! i believe that they do have emathy.