Monday, 28 July 2008

Elephants: traumatized by humanity

According to researcher Gay Bradshaw, "There are things about elephants that seem so similar to us. Their family life, their emotional life, the fact that they grieve. They stand out from other animals." Elephants are able to recognize themselves in a mirror, a trait shared with humans, apes and dolphins.

Field scientists have studied the special bonds of elephant herds for decades. Family members mourn their dead, even gently caressing the jawbones of their ancestors during grieving rituals.

"I think the real shock right now, in terms of the mirror self-recognition tests and their intelligence and their emotions is, they're like us. It's not that they're way up there. It's that they're on level footing with us," said Bradshaw.

But even as science holds a mirror to our similarities, in recent years researchers have observed a violent change in elephant-human relations after decades of peaceful coexistence.

"Humans are regarded as the enemy. You must never, ever be cruel to an elephant because they have an amazing memory. They will remember that for life. And they bear grudges," said Daphne Sheldrick, a renowned wild elephant expert and director of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Creatures who seem to share the best of what makes us human are now revealing they are also capable of the worst.

Source: ABC News

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