Tag: African elephant

Legitimate hope.

It’s too easy to be overwhelmed with negativity.

Many will have read yesterday’s post about the slaughter of elephants by ivory poachers and felt, as I did, a feeling of despair in the pit of one’s soul.  We seem to be living in such challenging times with so much madness about us.  It’s incredibly easy to feel as if this is some sort of ‘end of times’ period.

Today’s post tells us that there is always hope.

Let’s remind ourselves that elephants are very intelligent animals.  As I wrote last November in a post with the title of Smart Animals:

There was a fascinating article on the BBC news website a few weeks ago that went on to explain:

10 October 2013

Elephants ‘understand human gesture’

By Victoria GillScience reporter, BBC News
African elephants have demonstrated what appears to be an instinctive understanding of human gestures, according to UK scientists. In a series of tests, researcher Ann Smet, of the University of St Andrews, offered the animals a choice between two identical buckets, then pointed at the one containing a hidden treat.

From the first trial, the elephants chose the correct bucket.

The results are published in the journal Current Biology.

(The two video clips on the BBC website are really worth watching.)

A story published in the Daily Mail just a few days ago underlines the intelligence of elephants.

This adorable baby elephant had to be rescued by its mother’s huge trunk after it got stuck in the mud while taking a bath.

The youngster was enjoying a quiet dip in the water but became stranded when it struggled to pull itself out of the lake.

He had to be lifted to safety by its mother and her trusty trunk, which acted as a crane as she carried the three-month-old calf out of the water.

Stuck in the mud: The baby elephant slipped while taking a dip and was unable to haul himself out of the lake.
Stuck in the mud: The baby elephant slipped while taking a dip and was unable to haul himself out of the lake.

oooo

A mother's touch: Fortunately the calf's mother was able to scoop him up in her trunk and haul him to safety.
A mother’s touch: Fortunately the calf’s mother was able to scoop him up in her trunk and haul him to safety.

The rest of the story may be read here.

Also what needs to be highlighted are the organisations that are actively working on behalf of the elephants.

The Independent Newspaper have their own elephant campaign.

Elephant Crisis

In 2011, more African elephants were killed than any other year in history. The figures for 2012 and 2013 are not yet known, but are likely to be even higher. At current rates, in twelve years, there will be none left.

It is a familiar cause, but it has never been more urgent. Poaching has turned industrial. Armed militia fly in helicopters over jungle clearings, machine gunning down entire herds. Their tusks are then sold to fund war and terrorism throughout the continent and the wider world. Ivory is still illegal, but as China booms, it is more popular than ever.

This campaign will raise money to support rangers on the ground to protect Kenya’s elephants from armed poachers, together with Space for Giants’ longer term work to create new wildlife sanctuaries where elephants will be safe, forever. More can be found about the charity at Space for Giants

The article above includes two videos.  A shorter one that can be viewed on the paper’s campaign website. Then there is a longer, five-minute, video also on YouTube and included below.

Offering a donation to help is only a click away.

Then there is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust helping animals in Africa. And, finally, the campaign over at Bloody Ivory where one can sign a petition and donate towards stopping elephant poaching.

Thus, like so many aspects of life, never give up trying to help those less fortunate.

Without hope there is nothing.

Smart animals!

It’s not just dogs who can read us so well.

Millions of dog owners know how well their animals can read us humans; it’s been mentioned on Learning from Dogs many times before.

Try elephants.

There was a fascinating article on the BBC news website a few weeks ago that went on to explain:

10 October 2013

Elephants ‘understand human gesture’

By Victoria GillScience reporter, BBC News
African elephants have demonstrated what appears to be an instinctive understanding of human gestures, according to UK scientists. In a series of tests, researcher Ann Smet, of the University of St Andrews, offered the animals a choice between two identical buckets, then pointed at the one containing a hidden treat.

From the first trial, the elephants chose the correct bucket.

The results are published in the journal Current Biology.

The item included a short video that I am delighted to say is on YouTube.  Here it is:

Published on Oct 10, 2013

African elephants have demonstrated what appears to be an instinctive understanding of human gestures, according to UK scientists.

In a series of tests, researcher Ann Smet, of the University of St Andrews, offered the animals a choice between two identical buckets, then pointed at the one containing a hidden treat.

From the first trial, the elephants chose the correct bucket.

The results are published in the journal Current Biology.

The scientists worked with captive elephants at a lodge in Zimbabwe.

Prof Richard Byrne, a co-author on the research, said the elephants had been rescued from culling operations and trained for riding.

“They specifically train the elephants to respond to vocal cues. They don’t use any gestures at all,” said Prof Byrne.

“The idea is that the handler can walk behind the elephant and just tell it what to do with words.”

Despite this, the animals seemed to grasp the meaning of pointing from the outset.

Ms Smet added that she had been impressed by the animals’ apparently innate understanding of the gesture.

“Of course we had hoped that the elephants would be able to learn to follow human pointing, or we wouldn’t have done the experiment in the first place,” she said.

“But it was really surprising that they didn’t seem to have to learn anything.

“It seems that understanding pointing is an ability elephants just possess naturally and they are cognitively much more like us than has been realised.”

Prof Byrne said studying elephants helped build a map of part of the evolutionary tree that is very distant from humans.

“They’re so unrelated to us,” he told BBC News. “So if we find human-like abilities in an animal like an elephant, that hasn’t shared a common ancestor with people for more than 100 million years , we can be pretty sure that it’s evolved completely separately, by what’s called convergent evolution.”

The researchers said their findings might explain how elephants have successfully been tamed and have “historically had a close bond with humans, in spite of being potentially dangerous and unmanageable due to their great size”.

But the scientists added the results could be a hint that the animals gesture to one another in the wild with their “highly controllable trunks”.

Ms Smet told BBC News: “The next step [in our research] is to test whether when an elephant extends its trunk upwards and outwards – as they regularly do, such as when detecting a predator, this functions as a point.”

That BBC article goes on to highlight:

Prof Byrne said studying elephants helped build a map of part of the evolutionary tree that is very distant from humans.

“They’re so unrelated to us,” he told BBC News. “So if we find human-like abilities in an animal like an elephant, that hasn’t shared a common ancestor with people for more than 100 million years , we can be pretty sure that it’s evolved completely separately, by what’s called convergent evolution.”

The researchers said their findings might explain how elephants have successfully been tamed and have “historically had a close bond with humans, in spite of being potentially dangerous and unmanageable due to their great size”.

But the scientists added the results could be a hint that the animals gesture to one another in the wild with their “highly controllable trunks”.

Ms Smet told BBC News: “The next step [in our research] is to test whether when an elephant extends its trunk upwards and outwards – as they regularly do, such as when detecting a predator, this functions as a point.”

Now just where did I pack my old trunk.

Let there be lions.

The power and logic of nature.

In yesterday’s post Autumn ramblings, I mentioned:

There’s been a couple of posts that I want to refer to because they underline the fact that humans are so prone to forgetting that we are of the wild, from the wild and connected to the wild.

The first of those posts was a recent essay by Patrice Ayme under the title of Rewilding Us and is republished on Learning from Dogs with the kind permission of Patrice.

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Rewilding Us.

REALITY IS WILD & FEROCIOUS. IGNORING IT IS INHUMAN.

And Presents A Civilizational Risk.

Princeton is freaking out. Flesh devouring aliens are lurking out in the woods, threatening academia’s fragile thoughts. Krugman:

‘From the Princeton Town Topics, which used to be all about (a) parking (b) deer:

A growing population of coyotes in the wooded area bordering the Institute for Advanced Study has motivated the Princeton Animal Control Advisory Committee to recommend that sharpshooters be hired to help handle the problem. “There is a big pack over at the Institute Woods,” officer Johnson said this week. “I’m having a lot of complaints that they follow people around.”‘

You Can’t Always Eat Who You Want
You Can’t Always Eat Who You Want

The “Mountain Lion”, is a relative of the Cheetah (erroneously put in the cat family, felis, until last year or so). It has 40 names, in English alone, and is found from the American Arctic to Patagonia, from the sea shore to the high mountains. The weight above is that of the female. Males are heavier (typically up to 100 kilograms). The heaviest puma shot in Arizona was 300 pounds (136 kilos).

The lion/cougar/puma is capable of jumping up twenty feet from a standstill (yes, 6 meters; horizontally, 14 meters). It is capable of killing a grizzly (pumas and ‘golden bears’ were famous for their naturally occurring furious fights to death in California). The feline’s crafty method consisted into jumping on top of the bear, and blinding him with furious pawing. Top speed: 50 mph, 80 km/h. (By the way, there used to be pure cheetahs in North America, recently exterminated by man. I propose to re-install the Asian cheetah in the USA, in a sort of cheetah diplomacy with Iran.)

The philosophical question here is: what is this world all about? Is it about living on our knees, or ruling among animals and wilderness?

Why would Princeton panic about small canids? Because they don’t obey the established order?

Coyotes are totally clever, and not at all dangerous (being so clever). They have very varied voices, when in packs. Going out and shooting them is really primitive, and misses the main point of having nature around. That is: to teach humility, and teach the richness of our planet, visit hearts with emotional diversity, and minds with complexity.

Bears and Mountain Lions are a completely different matter. They are both extremely clever too, but can be very dangerous.

Running and hiking in the Sierra, I got charged by scary bears several times. I view this dangerosity as a plus, but it never loses my mind, and I got scared nearly out my wits more than once.

Once, in a national Park on the coast, I literally ran into two large lions in 30 minutes! Then I got charged by a large elk before he realized I was not a lion. Other high notes were finding a bear cub on the trail in the near vertical mountain side, on the way down, as dusk was coming.

Another high point was the large bear by the trail, who was lying like a bear rug, at 9pm, in an apparent ruse to let me approach until he could jump at his prey, as he did, before realizing that I was not a deer, something that obviously infuriated him. He was torn between making the human into dinner, and the instinct that this would turn badly for him.

In Alaska I was charged by a moose with her progeny… although I did not go as fast as an experienced mountain biker who happened to be there too, the anti-grizzly cannister in my hand emboldened me to succeed in a circuitous move  to proceed towards my distant destination, something facilitated by the calf’s crash into some obstacle, drawing his mother’s concern. Mountain running often requires to proceed, no matter the obstacles in the way, when one is too far to turn around.

Bears know rocks, they have been hurt by them, and so they fear airborn rocks (throw the rock on something noisy, to impress; I had to hit, with a very large rock, a charging bear directly, once; it fled; it was killed by rangers later after he caused a flesh wound to somebody else; some will find all this very violent; well, it is, that’s part of the whole point).

Mountain Lions are better charged and/or, roared or barked at. They fear insane behavior.

In general making lots of noise helps, with bears and lions. I don’t have clever tricks to suggest for bathing safely in the murky icy Pacific. Although I assume that the presence of sea lions bobbing on the surface placidly is indicative of the absence of an obvious white shark prowling… In any case the pacific is so cold, you will probably die of cardiac arrest before you are devoured.

In Africa, there are about 500,000 elephants. 25,000 to 30,000 are killed, a year, to send the ivory to east Asia (China, Vietnam). So African elephants may disappear. This is beyond tragic, it’s irreplaceable. Elephants understand people’s gestures, without any learning (they apparently learn to use trunk gestures among themselves). One is talking about extremely intelligent animals here. (In contrast, chimpanzees have great difficulties understanding human gestures.)

Intelligence and culture are dominant among apex mammals. That’s what makes them so superior. Washington State had the smart idea to shoot full grown adult male mountain lions. Thus mountain lion society and culture collapsed, uneducated teenagers took over, and incidents with humans exploded (something about the quiet macho society!).

A Japanese specialist of chimpanzee intelligence who happens to have a bear in his lab, found that the bear did not underperform chimpanzees on mental tasks (that’s actually a problem with bears; being so clever, they can be unpredictable, one can never know what they have up their sleeve, like the one who mimicked a bear rug, above, or one who drove a car in Tahoe). A number of social mentally advanced animals (sea mammals, parrots) use advanced languages.

So what are my recommendations? The Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies ought to realize that, if it wants to become really brainy, it ought to give our fellow species a chance. They are part of what make our minds, in full.

Elephants and rhinoceroses used to be all over Europe and North America. They ought to be re-introduced right away, using Indian and African species (rare camels too; later, thanks to genetic engineering, part of those could be replaced by re-engineered ancient species, such as the Mammoth). Lions and leopard like species ought to be reintroduced too.

It can work: in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is an impressive population of mountain lions.  I had many close calls (in the most recent incident, a few weeks ago, a lion peed an enormous and dreadfully smelling amount on a trail I was making a loop on, obviously to show me he owned the territory, a total wilderness reserve a few miles from Silicon Valley… especially at dusk).

However, the lions are extremely good at avoiding people (although one got killed by police in downtown Berkeley in the wee hours of the morning). They will all be collared in the next ten years, to find out what is going on. With modern technology (collars!) and sophisticated human-animal culture, there is no reason why extremely dangerous, but clever species could not live in reasonable intelligence with humans.

So rewilding is possible. It’s also necessary. Why? So we humans can recover our hearts, and our minds.

Whether we like it or not, we are made for this wild planet. By forgetting how wild it is, by shooting it into submission, we lose track of the fact human life, and civilization itself, are much more fragile than they look.

And thus, by turning our back to the wilds, we lose track of what reality really is. Worse: we never discover all what our minds can be, and how thrilling the universe is. We are actually bad students who refuse to attend the most important school, that taught by reality itself.

Rewilding is necessary, not just to instill a mood conducive to saving the planet, but also to remake us in all we are supposed to be.

Expect Evil, And Don’t Submit.
Expect Evil, And Don’t Submit.

These are the times when, once again, the plutocratic phenomenon is trying to take over. That’s when the few use the methods of Pluto to terrorize and subjugate the many (to constitute what is variously named an elite, oligarchy, or “nomenklatura“, or aristocracy, that is, a plutocracy).

And how is that possible? because the many have been made into a blind, stupid, meek herd (I refer to Nietzsche for the condemnation of the herd mentality).

How do we prevent that? Nietzsche advocated the mentality of the “blonde beast“. That meant the lion (and not what the Nazis claimed it was; few were as anti-Nazi as Nietzsche). Why lion? Because lions are domineering. I learned in Africa that one could go a long way with wild lions, as long as one gave them respect, and time to get out of the way. However, disrespecting a lion means death.

Lions don’t accept to live on their knees. When abominable forces from the giant Persian theocratic plutocracy put the tiny Athenian democracy in desperate military situations, Athenians fought like lions. And democracy won.

Yet, 150 years later, when fascist, plutocratic, but apparently not as abominable, Macedonian forces put Athens in a difficult situation, Athenians surrendered. They did not fight like lions. Democracy would not come back to Athens for 23 centuries (and only thanks to the European Union).

We will not defeat plutocracy if we do not rewild ourselves. First. Let there be lions.

***

Patrice Ayme

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What I read in Patrice’s essay is this.  Man is, by definition, part of nature.  Yet man, uniquely of all the natural species on this planet, has contrived to ‘evolve’ a set of beliefs that run counter to the core integrity of nature.  Perhaps more accurately put: sections of modern man have evolved this way.

I have a background piece on Learning from Dogs called Dogs and integrity.  Here’s an extract:

Dogs:

  • are integrous ( a score of 210) according to Dr David Hawkins
  • don’t cheat or lie
  • don’t have hidden agendas
  • are loyal and faithful
  • forgive
  • love unconditionally
  • value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
  • are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.

And have poetry written for them:

Inner Peace

If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

You are probably the family dog!

Those words apply equally to all the animals on this planet; all of Nature’s animals. In other words, integrity must be and has to be the one and only framework within which we live.

The second post I referred to is on Alex Jones’ wonderful blog The Liberated Way.  The post is called Nature Deficit Disorder.  Here is the text of Alex’s post.

I occasionally read sad stories in my local media of senseless cruelty against wildlife around my town of Colchester: the smashing of barn owl eggs; people suffocated badgers by closing their den up.  People have no opportunity to expose themselves to nature, and thus connect with nature, some experts call “Nature Deficit Disorder.”

Technology, far from liberating, enslaves the individual to a relentless need for entertainment and personal validation, backed by demands of television, homework, cellphones and money earning.  Many view nature as a health and safety risk, so that it is either managed or avoided.  The situation is best illustrated in a satirical YouTube video called“The discovery of the last child in the woods.”

The solution is simple: expose yourself to nature.

The indigenous Native American expresses a connection to nature in this video:

Here is that video.  Watch it without interruption.  In less that 3 minutes it spells out everything that we humans have to relearn about the world we live in; the world we are part of.  The integrous world we must fight for. Fight for as lions!

When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
~ Cree Prophecy ~