Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How About Those Elephants...?

I don't often have a post about the common type animal, but today we'll make an exception.

Everyone knows the elephant, but how much do we really know about this critter? Turns out that we are finding out new information almost daily, and some of it may surprise you!

Elephants Know A Scary Amount Of Information About You
By Nolan Moore on Sunday, March 16, 2014

Elephants are pretty insightful animals. In 2009, researchers discovered these long-trunked critters can distinguish between various people groups thanks to their keen sense of smell. And earlier this month, scientists realized elephants can actually identify human age, gender, and ethnicity simply by listening to our conversations.

Every so often, new research comes along that confirms what everyone already knows—that elephants are awesome. These brainy pachyderms are some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet. They can understand human gestures, mimic human speech, and, assuming Walt Disney is right, can even fly. However, two new studies have recently revealed that elephants are even smarter than we imagined.

In 2009, scientists from the University of St. Andrews ran a quirky experiment involving human clothing. Researchers placed three garments near African elephant families and watched how the creatures reacted. When the animals smelled clean, odor-free shirts, they went about their business and were totally relaxed. When the elephants smelled clothing belonging to Kamba farmers, they perked up a bit, suspecting humans were nearby. However, every single time the elephants smelled Maasai robes, they took off in terror, bolting for the elephant grass.

The reason for their fear is pretty simple. The Kamba people tend to avoid serious conflict with elephants, but it’s a different story with the Maasai. These guys are ranchers, and occasionally, elephants accidentally kill their cattle. They’re also constantly battling over watering holes and grazing land. From time to time, the Maasai arm themselves with spears and make a dent in the local elephant population. Thanks to government compensation for lost livestock, these killings are starting to drop, but elephants still associate the Maasai with death whenever they smell their distinct odor or spot their trademark red robes.

However, earlier this month, scientists from the University of Sussex made an even crazier discovery. Evidently, elephants can identify the Kaamba and the Maasai based on language alone. Using a speaker, researchers played recordings of various tribesmen saying, “Look, look over there, a group of elephants is coming.” Just like the clothing test, elephants weren’t too worried when they heard Kaamba voices, but they went into panic mode when they heard clips of the Maasai language.

The scientists were also shocked to find elephants could differentiate between men, women, and children. When zoologists played recordings of Maasai boys and women, the elephants remained calm. That’s probably because females and children aren’t the hunters. But when they heard sound bites of Maasai men, the elephants formed protective circles and readied themselves for an attack. They actually knew which humans were more likely to lob spears their way.

Wondering if they could maybe fool the elephants, scientists adjusted the pitch of the voices, causing the men and women to sound alike . . . well, to human ears anyway. As for the elephants, they weren’t fooled for a minute. Even though the voices were lighter, the animals could still tell the difference between men and women. How? Scientists are still working on that. What they do know is elephants are extremely social creatures that live long lives and share their knowledge with their kiddos. And if an old-timer has had a bad brush with a Maasai hunter, she’ll warn the whippersnappers to stay away from those red-garbed ranchers. The fear is passed on from generation to generation because, after all, elephants never forget.

Turns out that not only are these guys are not only beautiful, but extremely smart as well. I don't know about you, but this information gives me a lot more respect for the true King of beast!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. I need some sun, ya know?


Linda said...

The more I hear about elephants, the more I am amazed.

Mamahen said...

VERY INTERESTING !!! I had no idea they were that intelligent! Still to cool for the patio here at 22° so yours sounds nice....Got sugar cookies with green frosting left from yesterday i'll share :))

Chickenmom said...

Always liked elephants. Their babies are just so darn cute! Save me some of those cookies, Mamahen - I love cookies!

linda m said...

Elephants never cease to amaze me. I watch a lot of natural stories on TV and love the ones about elephants. They really are some amazing animals. Too cool for the patio here so I'll join you on yours.

Dizzy-Dick said...

Very interesting post. My son worked as an elephant handler for a couple of years and he has some great stories to tell about them. Maybe someday we can sit down with a cup of coffee and talk about them. BTW, unlike elephants, I forget a lot of things.

JO said...

Interesting things learned here today as usual. I love the wild life shows on TV about the only thing worth watching anymore. Elephants are amazing creatures for sure.

I'll be over for some coffee with no sense sitting here alone when I can join friends.

HermitJim said...

Hey Linda...
Pretty amazing animals for sure!

Thanks for the visit today!

Hey Mamahen...
Smarter than a lot of folks I know!

You'll like the temps here. 77 is predicted for the high today!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Phyllis...
The babies are cute, no doubt!

Bring on the cookies!

Thanks for dropping in today!

Hey Linda M...
Plenty of room out here! Come on down!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Hey Dizzy...
I'd love to hear the stories about the elephants!

I know what you mean about forgetting things! Must be an age thing!

Thanks for coming by today!

Hey Jo...
I'm always glad to share something new with my friends!

Thanks, sweetie, for dropping by today!