TThe lessons learnt include how to feed, use tools and understand their place in their social structure. Elephants capacity for memory and emotions is remarkable and is due to the well-developed hippocampus. This is also the area responsible for emotional flashbacks and is the reason that elephants experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The insight and intelligence of the elephant is particularly note-worthy in their ability to mourn their dead. This behaviour has only previously been noted in humans. In fact, recently deceased elephants will receive a burial ceremony, while those who are already reduced to a skeleton are still paid respect by passing herds. The burial ceremony is marked by deep rumblings while the dead body is touched and caressed by the herd members trunks.
Intelligence is also manifested in the elephant's ability to self-medicate. When a pregnant mother is due to give birth, she will chew on the leaves of the tree from the Boraginaceae family to induce labour.
Another ability that indicates superior intellect is elephants ability to play and display a sense of humour. Games include throwing a stick at a certain object, passing an object from one animal to another, or squirting water out of the trunk in a fountain. Elephants in zoos have even been seen stealing onlookers caps and hiding them in playful teasing.
The ability to mimic sounds is another indication of the impressive intelligence of these beasts. Elephants have been recorded mimicking passing trucks and even the sounds made by their trainers. Often, the elephant manages to articulate certain sounds so that they bear a strong resemblance to the spoken word.
Elephants are able to use tools or implements to accomplish a task they cannot perform on their own. They have been observed digging holes for drinking water, then moulding bark from a tree into the shape of a ball and placing it on top of the hole and covering it over with sand to avoid evaporation. They also use sticks to scratch their backs when their trunk can not reach and have been known to drop rocks on electric fences to damage them.
The elephant's problem solving abilities are another impressive facet of their boundless intelligence. Incredibly, the elephant is able to change its behaviour based on a given situation. Bandula, an Asian elephant in captivity, had learnt how to release the complex hook on her shackles and would then assist her fellow "inmates" to escape from theirs.
Self awareness is yet another indication of the vast capacity for thinking and intellect that exists in the elephant. They can, in fact, recognise themselves in a mirror, something that is extremely rare in the animal kingdom.
These capabilities are merely touching the tip of the iceberg of what is the elephant's capacity for insight, thought and discernment. And it is this capacity that continues to captivate researchers and onlookers alike in their eternal quest to understand the mystery of the elephant psyche.
Here is the Wikipedia page on elephant intelligence: Click Here
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