Are Elephants As Smart and Social As We Like To Think?


strange behaviors

(Photo: Elise Gilchrist/ Think Elephants International, Inc.) (Photo: Elise Gilchrist/ Think Elephants International, Inc.)

My latest for Takepart, the web site of the movie company Participant Pictures:

One time, in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, I was visiting with researchers studying a baboon troop when one of the animals became separated from her mates. In the distance, Sashe, as we knew her, started to give out her tremulous, plaintive “lost call,” repeating it over and over. It was so heartrending that, after more than a half hour, all of us wanted to go out and lead her back by the hand ourselves. But the really disturbing thing was to be with the troop, and see her friends and family going about their business, blandly indifferent, as if deaf, to Sashe’s plight.

Monkeys may look like us. They may even act like us in some circumstances. But they don’t have our capacity for empathy. They cannot put themselves in…

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