I’ve become obsessed with elephants. They’re majestic, intelligent, and adorable in an odd-looking way. In spite of their appearance, I’ve come to learn about key commonalities between humans and elephants. They’re social beings who have demonstrated an understanding of human gestures. They have eyelashes. Baby elephants suck their trunks the way a human baby sucks its thumb.
They mourn their dead and can recognize themselves in the mirror:
All of these facts have persuaded me of the fact that we share a kinship with these mostly gentle giants. They are people who have the right to live happily the way humans do. But nothing convinced me more of this fact than when I saw that some elephants will even dance to music:
This clip broke my heart for so many reasons. Maybe it’s because they’re the victims of butchery in Africa and exploitation throughout the world. 100,000 elephants were poached in three years to meet an increased demand for using their tusk in religious artwork, trinkets, firearms, etc.
Or maybe I felt overwhelmed because we presume that enjoying art is unique to humans. There’s so much we don’t know about other living creatures, and it’s the human default to assume that they exist as resources for whatever purpose we deem fit, whether they be food, pets, entertainment, decoration, trophies, etc.
There are many elephants, particularly in Africa, who are also keenly aware of this fact, and they have developed a human-specific call to convey the threat to their fellow elephants. We have a word for them, and they are smart enough to have a word for us. Their word, however, is a warning to run for their lives.