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Elephant in the room: are animals far cleverer than humans like to think?

Despite such developments, many scientists remain skeptical about the superpowers of animals. But simply dismissing the idea out of hand is increasingly looking bird-brained.

Editor The ARK Center

ROBERT MATTHEWS: ‘An elephant that can count or a dog that can foretell a disaster would once have been the topic of fiction or a circus attraction, but now they are the focus of scientific interest and their abilities appear to be genuine. For millennia, the lowly status of animals ensured that any suggestion they had human-like abilities got short shrift. Yet attitudes towards animals have changed, and so has the willingness of scientists to take claims of gifted animals seriously.

Recently, an elephant named Authai has been making headlines because of her apparent ability to count…Meanwhile, a species of crow continues to wow scientists with its ingenuity… Now scientists have witnessed the crows going to the next level, creating tools with several parts. Faced with out of reach food, they picked up sticks supplied by researchers, only to find they were not long enough. So the crows looked around and noticed straws into which their sticks could fit, giving them extra reach.

Carefully sliding the sticks into the straws, the crows then returned to their task, and managed to flick the food out of the container. Amazed, the researchers decided to make the task even harder, giving them ever shorter sticks to work with. One of the eight crows in the experiment went as far as creating a four-part tool consisting of two sticks and two straws.

The researchers, from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany, and the University of Oxford, admit they don’t know why the crows are so ingenious. They suspect they mentally visualise the tools being put together — though this has yet to be proven… Despite such developments, many scientists remain skeptical about the superpowers of animals. But simply dismissing the idea out of hand is increasingly looking bird-brained’. SOURCE…

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