Carolyn’s Online Magazine (#COMe)
WHAT ABOUT THOSE CIRCUS
(AND ALL) ELEPHANTS?
Bye, bye, elephants.
Such was the farewell to elephants performing at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Providence, Rhode Island. The beasts will retire to Ringling’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.
Spectators were filled with admiration for the elephants, which have entertaining circus crowds in America for more than 200 years. In the early 1800s, Hackaliah Bailey added the elephant “Old Bet” to his circus. P.T. Barnum added the African elephant he named “Jumbo” to “The Greatest Show on Earth” in 1882.
The change at Ringling signifies a shift in Americans’ understanding of elephants—no longer viewing them as circus performers but seeing them as sentient animals capable of a full range of human emotions, according to Ronald B. Tobias, author of the 2013 book Behemoth: The History of the Elephant in America.
Elephants are exceptionally large and long-lived. They have remarkable memories, accumulating and retaining social and ecological knowledge, and remembering for decades the scents and voices of other individuals, migratory routes, special places, and learned skills.
Legend and conventional wisdom, supported by decades of scientific research, indicate elephants are not only intelligent, but are among the most socially intricate and emotionally complex non-human species. They work with minimal instruction and can function as a team. They have extraordinary balance and synchronization, and are credited with the ability to anticipate the results of certain actions.
They not only use simple tools, they can manufacture them, using the finger-like tip of their prehensile trunk, which is capable of manipulative movements similar to those primates perform with their fingers and thumb. Also,the sensory/motor specializations of the elephant’s trunk is extensive, allowing delicate manipulations of both large and small objects, enabling them to pick up objects (logs, rocks) and throw them at their opponents, use logs to neutralize electric fences, use leafy branches as fly switches, and use short, sturdy sticks to de-tick themselves…
Wild elephants can do more than distinguish between the voice of a man, woman or boy—they can distinguish between human languages.
This fine-level discrimination uses human language skills that lets elephants acquire quite detailed knowledge. According to scientists this is an advanced thinking skill. It allows elephants figure out who is a threat and who isn’t, and requires an exceptionally large brain.
The elephant can contribute to better gardening. Its beastial poop, its solid excretion, is a great fertilizer, turning a stinky problem into sweet-smelling success. The 300 pounds of nutrient-rich manure they excrete daily produces bumper crops, according to gardeners.
Might I suggest you now sit back, relax with a demitasse cup filled with cuppa, and sip it slowly while celebrating with admiration the elephants which are now free from their circus work?