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Elephant "Self-Portrait"
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This video of an elephant painting a highly-representational line drawing of an elephant has been exploding across the internet:



In my primate evolution class this week, we're discussing mirror self-recognition and the conception of self in chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants. Part of our assignment was to watch this video and keep a log of our thoughts. Mine were mostly questions:

What is the trainer doing throughout this video?

How good are elephants' eyesight? Can it even perceive what it's painting as a representation of an elephant?

How much training was required to elicit this behavior? How ethical was this training (i.e. was severe punishment administered in order to carry out this training)?

What is the elephant thinking?

I found a post of this video to the technology blog Boing Boing, and some of the comments point out that breaking elephants (ala breaking horses) is an extremely long and cruel ordeal. I don't know the history of this particular elephant, but my immediate reaction is to want to know more about the circumstances around it rather than immediate wonder or awe about what the elephant is doing.


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