The Third Leader: Grey matter

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The Independent Online

We wonder if we could persuade Dr Watson to address some Africans who are proving to be even more clever than previously thought: elephants. Scientists at the University of St Andrews have found that Kenyan elephants are able to associate danger with both the smell of their hunters and the red clothes they wear. Elephants (there's no suggestion, Jim, that the Asian ones are any thicker, even if their ears are smaller) also observe longer mourning periods, communicate better, and display more self-awareness (recognising their image in a mirror, for example) than, to take another fairly random group, the Liberal Democrats.

Human supremacists will ask The Dolphin Question – if they're so smart, how come they're doing tricks for us? I will merely point them in the direction of the world of Light Entertainment before noting the increasing signs – attacks and killings – that elephants are becoming exasperated with our destruction of their habitat and general ill-treatment.

And how clever is it, exactly, to annoy an elephant? Remarkably, many retain their excellent sense of humour: Five, an imaginatively named African at West Midlands Safari Park, has just started producing paintings in an abstract style – mostly stripes – which are confidently expected to fetch attractive prices.

Should you need further proof of elephantine sophistication, apart from a preference for grey rather than red, you should know that when Dolly and Mimi were presented with Hallowe'en pumpkins at Denver Zoo this week, they stamped on them.

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