posted on Jun, 20 2004 @ 08:29 PM
There also seems to be a decent amount of evidence (to me at least) that elephants are conscious, that is, are aware of themselves as individuals, of
their local community, of the greater community of elephants of which their herd is a part and of conditions in the world around them.
The evidence, as I understand it.
Elephants take a long time to reach maturity. This is indicative of a significant transmission of information, of a socialisation process. The young
are being taught about the world around them and coming to a sense of themselves.
They have the largest and most convoluted temporal lobes of any animal. The temporal lobes are the sections which store memory. At the same time, this
large memory capacity indicates, for me at least, a degree of cognitive sophistication. One example of this is that in Africa, a river marks the
boundary between two countries (I forget which river, and which nations). One of these countries does very little about poaching, while the other has
taken action, and reduced poaching significantly. Elephants know which side of the river they want to be on, and do not cross it.
They communicate, both through vocalisation and through the transmission of sound through the ground. Their feet are incredibly sensitive to
vibrations. If a member of the herd is missing, or lagging behind as a result of disease or injury, they can communicate by stamping on the ground so
as to create vibrations which the others will percieve and respond to.
They 'brew' their own alcohol. They leave piles of fruit for long enough to ferment, so that they can get drunk.
Every year, all of the herds in a certain area meet up at a certain area for what seems to be a party. I think that it also seems to have a function
for breeding, in that it is here that young males will transfer to a new herd to find a mate. (I am unsure about this latter aspect of the meeting.
That the meeting occurs, I have no doubt. If it is not to do with mating, then it has no clear function beyond social interaction, which is not a
trait of many animals.)
Looking at the above, I feel that I have not made my case very clearly, but it is something which I feel to be true. I suspect that it has not been
more remarked upon, because elephants lack the capacity for a technological culture, which we have begun to acknowledge in other primates, and as such
do not present the signs which we might use to determine the presence of sentience.