What do you do if you just can’t quite reach the treat that’s hanging from a branch in a tree?
That’s the problem that Kandula the elephant had at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. So he picked up a big cube that happened to be lying in his enclosure, took it over to the tree, and stood up on it so he could reach it with his trunk.
Don Moore, the associate director for animal care sciences at the zoo, says that exercises and puzzles like this keep the elephants’ minds sharp.
“We gave the elephants a variety of boxes, tires and butcher blocks,” he said. “Kandula then was able to smell the food which was up above him. He moved a cube over and stood on it and he got the food.”
Moore said that only chimps and dolphins had demonstrated that kind of insightful behavior before.
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“If people think animals are more like humans,” Moore added, “it makes it so that we maybe have more responsibility of stewardship of animals and for their conservation for future generations.”
We know that the folks at the zoo want the best for the animals, but here at Zoe we don’t believe that we humans are “stewards” of other animals; we just need to leave them alone.
And if, as Moore notes, “they’re so smart that we have to challenge them mentally every day,” then they shouldn’t be locked up in a zoo in the first place, with humans finding interesting things to keep them occupied. They should be free to live their own lives in their own way.
But we’re glad that while we still have zoos, the elephants at least have something to keep them occupied and mildly amused.
What do you say? Do you think elephants belong in zoos? Let us know in a comment or on Facebook.