What Are Animals Thinking?
It is the naiveté of us non-biologists to ascribe human feelings to our fellow species, a phenomenon called anthropomorphism. I do it often because in my child-like wonder of nature I believe that an adult gorilla conjugates emotions in greater depths than we know from scientific studies. Maybe I humanized the protagonist from the powerful novel, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, more than was intended by the author. But other than the conservationists dedicated to these critically endangered species of the world, who else is going to look out for them and who else is going to tell their stories? We humans perched at the top of the evolutionary pyramid have made it increasingly difficult for many signature species to co-exist. I decided this forty-second anniversary of Earth Day, to offer my implausible interpretation of what three signature species are thinking in today’s precarious times.
The various species of elephants are universally well known as one of the largest mammalian creatures as well as one of the most intelligent in existence. Recently it has been observed that elephants cry at the death of a family member, and the herd will join together in a ritualistic formation as an expression of loss and respect for the deceased. If they can perceive loss in such profound ways, it isn’t hard to theorize that they are well aware that they are now prisoners of a planet they once roamed freely. Intelligent creatures don’t accept enslavement easily, a lesson not lost on Homo sapiens.
They must know that sustainability doesn’t apply to them. I don’t want to see elephants resigned to zoos and circuses, and I’m pretty sure they don’t either. So, the next time you see elephants in public lined together, you might wonder if it is a mass funeral.
The state of our oceans is increasingly impaired and the large cetaceans must know it too. Our crude understanding of the songs of humpback whales gives us very few clues. Humpback whales sing complex songs, albeit among males only, and communicate effectively in high and low frequencies. Perhaps these songs are nothing other than whale pick-up lines but I doubt it. In our globalized world of commerce, we have introduced a new invasive species called container ships. With the amount of cargo ships outnumbering remaining humpback populations threefold, these songs must be getting a little desperate. With oceanic pollution and warming temperatures on the rise, the songs of the humpback are the new dirges of the deep: planetary distress signals.
By now I would think that eastern lowland gorillas have about seen it all. As notoriously shy creatures, imagine a habitat as violent as theirs. With humans, a genetic second cousin, slaughtering each other by the thousands and deforesting the rich landscape of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, eastern lowland gorillas couldn’t have worse neighbors. Being squeezed into a shrinking homeland, trapped and slaughtered for meat or trophies or killed protecting their babies from illegal trade, these gorillas of the Congo can’t possibly have found genetic evolution to their liking. Nor can they comprehend our mining of their riverbeds for metals used in our ubiquitous cell phones.
I’m sure there is a word for Coltan mining in gorilla lexicon but I don’t think it is freedom of communication. A 30 year-old dominant silver-back can’t beat his chest hard enough to ward off this enemy. Further, these remaining 2,500 eastern lowland gorillas don’t need cell phones to spread the news among their band that they’re in trouble.No one truly knows what they must be thinking but it raises the question. What on earth are we thinking?
Guest post provided by David Mahood.
Reasons to JOIN US include:
- It's absolutely FREE!
- Get Green Tips You MUST know about.
- How to's on going green, saving money, and having fun.
- Keep up-to-date on our posts in cased you missed them.