Friday, September 15, 2006

Elephant speaks Korean

How much do we underestimate other members of the animal kingdom? With all the appalling things humans do to create pain, discomfort and general poor living conditions for other animals, we often justify our actions through suggestions that other animals are less complex than humans, are lower on the food chain, lack souls, are not self-aware, don’t feel pain, have no fundamental rights, etc etc.

Scientists have been studying the apparent language and social structures of dolphins for many years and some have suggested that dolphins are, at least, as intelligent as humans. However, the communication gap between humans and dolphins has never been bridged so we don’t really know what is going on with pods of dolphins living out there in the second-last frontier.

Apes, the closest relative to humans in evolutionary terms, have shown a propensity towards understanding human language and being able to communicate via a keyboard or typewriter. Their cousin, the Orang-utan, has proven to be wily and industrious when kept in captivity. The giant primates have been known to make tools out of random objects, like bending wire pieces into lock picks and figuring out how to release themselves from their prison-like cages. This ability to build is an attribute often believed to be unique to humans, but our orange friends have proven otherwise.

If we could talk to other animals perhaps we’d better understand their situation and be more sensitive to their needs and desires. However, until recently parrots have been the only other animal capable of reproducing human sounds, although most would agree their “voice” is little more than repetition without meaning.

However, everything we’ve ever thought or assumed about other animals could well be completely false. Watch this, it's the most amazing thing ever, and judge for yourself.

Yes, the elephant is most likely mimicking human sounds rather than attempting communication, although the jury is still out on that one. However, please consider the amazing awareness the elephant has demonstrated by knowing humans are unable to perceive the natural sounds that elephants make, their low register being beyond the range that human ears can hear. The elephant has not only realised this, but found a way to overcome that obstacle by using his own trunk like a trumpet to create higher frequency sounds.

Not only has the elephant found a way to create higher pitches, but more specifically he is able to reproduce human language, but he doesn’t stop with the satisfaction of being able to speak a few sounds, he actually practises the few vocabulary words he knows when he is alone in his shelter at night. He’s not doing that for sheer entertainment value, there must be more to this elephant’s determined drive to be able to speak the same language as his trainer.

It’s the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen and heard. If anyone tried to tell me it without visual proof, I honestly wouldn’t believe it. I therefore urge you to watch it for yourself and share it with your friends. We, as humans, should all know that other animals aren’t as plain, stupid, unaware, uncomplicated, bottom-of-the-food-chain dwelling as we might have thought.

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