Sioux Falls Zoologists

"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!"

The mirror test is an experiment developed in 1970 by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. to determine whether an animal possesses the ability to recognize itself in a mirror. It is the primary indicator of self-awareness in non-human animals and marks entrance to the mirror stage by human children in developmental psychology. Animals that pass the mirror test are: Humans older than 18 mo, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutans, Gorillas, Bottlenose Dolphins, Orcas (Killer Whales), Elephants, and European Magpies. Others showing signs of self-awareness are Pigs, some Gibbons, Rhesus Macaques, Capuchin Monkeys, some Corvids (Crows & Ravens) and Pigeons w/training. (Sorry Kitty!)

The Intelligence of Elephants
Compared to Chimps Elephants have more civilized behavior.
Probably because their herds are led by older wiser females.

7-6-17 Elephant tourism is 'fuelling cruelty'
Elephant tourism is 'fuelling cruelty'
Millions of people want selfies riding elephants, or washing them, or patting their trunks. But according to a study carried out by World Animal Protection (WAP) across Asia this is helping to fuel a rise in elephants captured from the wild and kept for entertainment. The number in Thailand has increased by almost a third over the last five years. WAP researchers assessed almost 3,000 elephants and found that more than three quarters were living in "severely cruel" conditions. Many were bound with chains less than 3m long and were forced to stand on concrete floors close to loud roads, crowds and music. Some 160 travel companies have already committed to stop selling tickets to or promoting venues offering elephant rides and shows. In 2016, TripAdvisor announced that it would end the sale of tickets for wildlife experiences where tourists come in to direct contact with wild animals, including elephant riding. Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach, Global Wildlife and veterinary adviser at World Animal Protection (WAP), said: "The cruel trend of elephants used for rides and shows is growing - we want tourists to know that many of these elephants are taken from their mothers as babies, forced to endure harsh training and suffer poor living conditions throughout their life. "There is an urgent need for tourist education and regulation of wildlife tourist attractions worldwide. Venues that offer tourists a chance to watch elephants in genuine sanctuaries are beacons of hope that can encourage the urgently-needed shift in the captive elephant tourism industry." (Webmaster's comment: BY WHAT RIGHT! This is part of the EVIL Christian teaching that man has dominion over animals!)

5-15-17 The tragic price of ivory
The tragic price of ivory
Poachers are now slaughtering up to 35,000 of the estimated 500,000 African elephants every year for their tusks. A single male elephant's two tusks can weigh more than 250 pounds, with a pound of ivory fetching as much as $1,500 on the black market. The ivory is so valuable because all across Asia — particularly in China — ivory figurines are given as traditional gifts, and ivory chopsticks, hair ornaments, and jewelry are highly prized luxuries. "China regards ivory as a cultural heritage; they are not going to ban it," said Grace Gabriel of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Many Chinese consumers don't realize that elephants must be killed for their ivory; in one survey, more than two thirds of Chinese respondents said they thought tusks grew back like fingernails. Elephants are highly intelligent, social creatures that live in matriarchal groups, and poaching has ravaged much of their social structure. The biggest tusks are found on the largest breeding males and on the oldest females, who lead the elephant troops. Where these animals are targeted and killed, elephant populations are reduced to leaderless groups of traumatized orphans huddling together. In the past year, even they are being wiped out, as some poachers have started dumping cyanide into watering holes, killing every animal that drinks there. Last year, poachers killed an estimated 300 elephants in Zimbabwe's largest park, Hwange, by lacing watering holes and salt licks with cyanide.

  • How extensive is the poaching?
  • What impact has the slaughter had on the elephants?
  • Who are the poachers?
  • Why is the price so high?
  • What steps are being taken to stop poaching?
  • Is China cooperating?
  • Why is the ban so hard to enforce?
  • Endangered Asian elephants

3-29-17 Inside knowledge: What’s really going on in the minds of animals
Inside knowledge: What’s really going on in the minds of animals
Bright animals from chimps to crows know what they know and what others are thinking. But when it comes to abstract knowledge, the picture is more mixed. WORKERS at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya, claim that elephants know they will be looked after at its rescue centre, even if the animals have never been there. Elephants that have had no contact with the centre, but know others who have, often turn up with injuries that need attention. That suggests not only abstract knowledge, but relatively sophisticated communication of that knowledge. Either that, or wishful thinking on our part. The extent to which non-human animals “know” things is difficult to assess. The attribute known as “theory of mind” – the ability to know what others are aware of – has been demonstrated, although not always conclusively, in elephants, chimps, parrots, dolphins and ravens, for example. Dolphins are even aware of lacking knowledge. Train a dolphin to answer a question such as “was that a high or low-frequency tone you just heard?” and they give sensible answers, even giving a “don’t know” when the right response isn’t clear. Some primates spontaneously seek further information when posed a question that they can’t answer, suggesting they know both that they don’t know and that they can change that. Things look more mixed when we consider abstract knowledge: the ability we have to understand abstract properties such as weight or force, and squirrel away knowledge gained in one situation to be applied in some future, different context. Great apes instinctively know that, of two identical cups on a seesaw, the lower one is more likely to contain food. “They have a spontaneous preference, from the first time, for the lower cup,” says Christoph Voelter, who researches animal cognition at the University of St Andrews, UK. “They seem to have certain physical knowledge about the world.” New Caledonian crows, on the other hand, don’t have this know-how and make “mistakes” when assessing which stones will exert the most force on a lever to release food. “Crows aren’t using knowledge of force when initially solving the problem,” says Alex Taylor of the University of Auckland, New Zealand – rather, they seem to use trial and error.

1-9-17 The trunk trick that lets elephants pick up almost anything
The trunk trick that lets elephants pick up almost anything
Kelly the elephant has shown how trunks can grip and lift anything from fine granules to 350-kilogram logs – it’s all in the kink. A captive African elephant called Kelly has helped to shed light on one of nature’s great mysteries: how elephant trunks that can grip and carry heavy logs a metre across can also handle tiny, fragile objects. Jianing Wu at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and his colleagues, offered Kelly items of food in four different sizes – powdered bran, cubed bran, cubed swede and largest of all, cubed celery. “We wanted to know how she would grab food items of different size,” says Wu. They offered the food on a table that measured the downward force her trunk generated during gripping, and took detailed measurements of Kelly’s trunk manoeuvres to find out how she varied the shape of her trunk and the forces it applied to grip each target. Kelly’s secret, it turns out, was her ability to create a kink at any point along her 2-metre-long trunk that would provide exactly the right downward force to grip each size of food item. The kink acted like a joint that subdivided her trunk into two sections: a long section that supported the weight of the trunk and a short tip pointing vertically downwards for dexterous gripping.

11-7-16 Most illegal ivory is less than three years old
Most illegal ivory is less than three years old
Around 90 percent of ivory seized by law enforcement came from African elephants that died shy of three years before being collected, a study of ivory samples finds. The results confirm what many conservationists have suspected: Long-term stockpiles don’t contribute much ivory to illegal trade, and recent poaching is pushing regional elephant populations into a nose-dive. Last year, DNA evidence linked tusks to poaching hotspots in Africa. Now researchers have used radiocarbon dating on some of the same tusks to pinpoint the time of death of the elephants to which they once belonged. The team sampled 231 specimens seized in 14 large-scale raids from 2002 to 2014.

10-10-16 African elephants walk on their tippy-toes
African elephants walk on their tippy-toes
African elephants may develop foot problems when they tiptoe across hard surfaces in captivity. Elephants don’t wear high heels, but they certainly walk like they do. Foot problems plague pachyderm conservation efforts. But it’s not clear if being in captivity causes changes in walking gait that drive these foot problems or whether the environment messes with their natural walking style. Regardless of species or setting, a trend emerged: Elephants put the most pressure on the outside toes of their front feet and the least pressure on their heels, scientists report October 5 in Royal Society Open Science. Thus, elephants naturally walk on their tiptoes, and harder surfaces of captive environments must cramp their walking style. As a potential monitoring system, the pressure plates used in the study could aid conservationists and elephant podiatrists.

10-3-16 Efforts to boost elephant protection fails at Cites
Efforts to boost elephant protection fails at Cites
Attempts to give the maximum level of international protection to all African elephants have foundered at a key species conference in Johannesburg. A proposal put forward by Kenya was strongly supported but failed to gain the two-thirds majority required. The opposition of the EU, which voted as a block, was pivotal in the defeat. Other proposals that would have opened up new ivory markets were also rejected. Proponents of the increased protection say it is a missed opportunity to safeguard the future of the species and end the current poaching crisis.

10-2-16 Call to close ivory markets agreed at Cites conference
Call to close ivory markets agreed at Cites conference
Delegates at a UN wildlife conference have endorsed calls for the closure of all domestic ivory markets. The non-binding proposal was approved at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in South Africa. Conservationists hailed it as a significant step towards ending the current elephant poaching crisis. However Japan, which has a large domestic ivory trade, said the proposal did not apply there. While the international market in ivory has been closed since 1989, legal domestic markets have continued in many countries around the world. There has been growing concern that domestic trading has encouraged the poaching of elephants. A surge in killing over the past seven years has seen populations across Africa shrink by a third, according to the recently published Great Elephant Census. What is driving the slaughter is the value of ivory, which can sell for around $1,100 (£850) per kilo in China. Countries including the US and China have announced plans to close their markets. The UK recently did the same, banning all trade in ivory dated from 1947 until the present day. Trade in materials from before 1947 will continue.

9-27-16 CITES species body rejects process for ivory sales
CITES species body rejects process for ivory sales
Delegates at the Cites meeting here in Johannesburg have defeated an attempt to set up a process to resume sales of ivory. Under discussion for eight years, the so-called Decision Making Mechanism was supported by a number of southern African states. It was intended to work out a way for legitimate ivory sales to resume at some point in the future. But the Conference of the Parties (COP) heavily rejected the proposal.

9-26-16 Zambia's front line between elephants and humans
Zambia's front line between elephants and humans
As the Cites conference on endangered species meets in Johannesburg, the BBC's Matt McGrath travelled to Zambia to hear the voices of people with first-hand experience of conflicts between humans and wildlife. Humphrey Mubita farms near the Kafue National Park. Kafue is often said to be the green jewel of Zambia, being its oldest and biggest protected area covering over 22,000 sq km. When the national park system in Zambia was set up, the authorities decided to designate buffer zones around them, areas in which people live and farm, but also areas in which the animals from the park move freely. This has had tragic consequences for Humphrey. "My daughter was going to the clinic in Chunga, on the way she met this elephant. There were five people, but the other four knew where to hide. My daughter was a visitor to the area so she didn't know how to divert…" Humphrey's daughter was 29 years old and left three children behind. Her case is not an isolated one. Humphrey knows of two other people who have been killed by elephants in the past three years. The main complaint that Humphrey and others in his area have about the elephants is the lack of compensation from the government - The destruction of crops or people is just a "loss to be borne", as another villager said.

The mirror test is an experiment developed in 1970 by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. to determine whether an animal possesses the ability to recognize itself in a mirror. It is the primary indicator of self-awareness in non-human animals and marks entrance to the mirror stage by human children in developmental psychology. Animals that pass the mirror test are: Humans older than 18 mo, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutans, Gorillas, Bottlenose Dolphins, Orcas (Killer Whales), Elephants, and European Magpies. Others showing signs of self-awareness are Pigs, some Gibbons, Rhesus Macaques, Capuchin Monkeys, some Corvids (Crows & Ravens) and Pigeons w/training.

9-25-16 New report confirms grim outlook for elephants
New report confirms grim outlook for elephants
Elephant populations in Africa have declined by around 111,000 over the past 10 years according to a new study. The African Elephant Status report says that poaching is the main driver of the fall, the worst losses in 25 years. However the authors say that long-term issues such as the loss of habitat also pose a significant threat. The report has been presented at the Cites meeting which is considering new proposals on elephant protection. Every year in Africa between 30,000 and 40,000 elephants are poached for their ivory, and it's thought there are only 400,000 left. Even accounting for the newborns, this rate of killing calls into question whether these amazing creatures will still be around in a generation, especially as Africa's ever-increasing population is reducing the space for them. Organised crime runs the ivory industry.

9-24-16 Deep divisions over elephants to dominate key species meeting
Deep divisions over elephants to dominate key species meeting
The illegal trade in ivory has seen elephant numbers plummet. The world's biggest conference on species protection has opened in South Africa amid concern and division over the survival of elephants. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) will address proposals impacting more than 500 plants and animals. But elephants are likely to top the bill with countries bitterly divided over the best way to protect the ponderous pachyderms. Billed as the largest gathering in the 43-year history of the convention, the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) will see more than 2,500 delegates from more than 180 countries come together in Johannesburg. While there are proposals affecting lions, sharks, rhinos, pangolins and dozens of other species, the main focus will be on elephants. There have been growing international concerns about the surge in poaching for ivory that has seen elephant numbers plummet by 30% in the past seven years.

9-9-16 As IUCN votes on ivory trade, elephants’ future looks bleak
As IUCN votes on ivory trade, elephants’ future looks bleak
Forest elephants are a species distinct from their savannah cousins. New research finds that populations of both elephant species are in trouble. The fate of Africa’s elephants may be decided before the weekend is out. Members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, happening this week in Honolulu, will decide on Motion 7, whichwould call on the IUCN to encourage governments to shut down the ivory trade — and provide help in doing so. The hope is that ending the demand for ivory — and with it, hopefully, the large-scale elephant poaching that has been going on for more than a decade — would allow both savannah and forest elephants to recover. But two new studies show that the species have declined so much that, even after poaching ends, their populations will take decades to recover.

8-31-16 Slow birth rate found in African forest elephants
Slow birth rate found in African forest elephants
African forest elephants have an extremely slow birth rate, putting them under greater pressure from poaching, research suggests. Scientists have found that the animals start to breed at a later age and with longer intervals between calves than other elephant species. The researchers say it means it could take decades for this species to recover from recent dramatic declines.

8-31-16 Slow-to-breed elephant hurtles towards extinction
Slow-to-breed elephant hurtles towards extinction
The African forest elephant doesn’t begin having offspring until its mid-20s – which makes population recovery a mammoth problem, even if poaching can be halted. African forest elephants could be wiped out in the next 10 years. Numbers of this small elephant species that inhabits tropical forests fell by about 65 per cent across the Central African Republic between 2002 and 2013, according to a study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society. They are being poached for their ivory. “In 2013 the estimated remaining population was 100,000,” says study co-author Peter Wrege at the Elephant Listening Project, part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Ithaca, New York. “But poaching rates suggest that 12,000 to 15,000 forest elephants are being killed every year. At this rate, forest elephants will be essentially extinct in one decade – by 2023. This should worry everybody.” The elephants’ bleak future is partly because of their slow reproduction rate. Unlike the bigger, more abundant savannah elephants – which start breeding from the age of 12 – female forest elephants begin breeding only at 23. They then only give birth only once every five to six years. “Overall, this makes forest elephants the slowest reproducing mammals known,” says Wrege. Orangutans are probably the closest mammal in terms of rate of reproduction – they give birth about every six to seven years. But orangutans begin reproducing in their teens rather than their twenties.

8-31-16 Why elephants are seeking refuge in Botswana
Why elephants are seeking refuge in Botswana
Elephants are everywhere - under the shade of trees, drinking by the river or playing at the few remaining waterholes in the drought-parched landscape. Botswana has more elephants than any other country in Africa - 130,451 to be precise. At least that's the estimate given by the Great Elephant Census. Sadly, hundreds of them have now probably been killed since the survey was done. Botswana may be their last place of refuge on the continent, but poachers are already breaching its vast borders in their pursuit of ivory. In seven years, 30% of Africa's elephants have disappeared. At the current rate of decline, half the continent's remaining pachyderms will be gone in just nine years.

12-18-15 Seismology of elephants investigated
Seismology of elephants investigated
Could putting vibrations into the ground be a way to keep elephants from coming into conflict with humans? Already, attempts have been made to scare the animals away from villages using their own very low-frequency alarm calls - with partial success. Now scientists are studying whether even better results could be obtained if this sound in the air is accompanied also by a seismic signal underfoot. The work is being led by Prof Sue Webb from Wits University in Johannesburg. Sue Webb: "Elephants are incredibly smart; they soon figure out when things are fake"

10-1-15 The birds that fear death
The birds that fear death
Crows will gather around their dead. And the reasons why are intriguing. Crows are now the latest in the small group of animals that are known to recognise, or perhaps even mourn their dead. Elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees and several other corvid species are also known to loiter near recently deceased mates.

9-18-15 The inner lives of animals
The inner lives of animals
The evidence shows that elephants and apes mourn their dead, becoming listless and depressed. Dolphins can recognize their own reflections, have intricate social structures, and appear to call each other by individual names. Apes and chimps make tools, plan for the future, and display empathy and inferential reasoning. Primatologist Frans de Waal, writing in The New York Times about the recent discovery of a hominin ancestor with both human and ape characteristics, blames human vanity for the belief we are separate and distinct from the "extended family" of creatures on the great continuum of evolution. "The wall between human and animal cognition," de Waal says, "is like a Swiss cheese." If you doubt our kinship with the animal kingdom, I refer you to the daily news coverage of our species' Darwinian struggles for dominance and survival. Evolution is a work in progress: We are still closer to the beasts than to the gods.

4-4-15 Postmenopausal Orcas guide hunts
Postmenopausal Orcas guide hunts
By finding fish, older females improve survival of kin. Same as with elephants, the older females are the leaders. They are the custodians of Orca knowledge

4-19-14 Elephants pick out worrisome voices
Elephants pick out worrisome voices
Herds react to speech that they may recognize as dangerous

3-10-14 Elephants recognise human voices
Elephants recognise human voices
Elephants are able to differentiate between ethnicities and genders, and can tell an adult from a child - all from the sound of a human voice.

1-14-14 Pachyderm politics: In Elephant Society, Matriarchs Lead
Pachyderm politics: In Elephant Society, Matriarchs Lead
It takes wisdom, experience and two X chromosomes to successfully lead a herd of elephants, finds Lesley Evans Ogden

10-31-13 Elephant society 'still disrupted decades after cull'
Elephant society 'still disrupted decades after cull'
African elephants' decision-making abilities are left impaired by culling operations that ended decades ago, University of Sussex research suggests.

10-10-13 Elephants 'understand human gesture'
Elephants 'understand human gesture'
African elephants have demonstrated what appears to be an instinctive understanding of human gestures, according to UK scientists.

10-31-06 Elephants' jumbo mirror ability
Elephants' jumbo mirror ability
Elephants can recognize their own reflection, showing self-awareness seen before only in humans, great apes and bottlenose dolphins, scientists say.

Echo - An Elephant to Remember

Echo and Other Elephants - Enchanting Stories of an Elephant Family

Soul of the Elephant - Wild Elephant Lives

Inside Animal Minds - Article in National Geographic: Asian Elephant: Retains long memories and social ties; possesses a sense of self.

When Elephants Weep - The Emotional Lives of Animals

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The Intelligence of Elephants
Compared to Chimps have more civilized behavior.
Probably because their herds are led by older females.