March 29th, 2014| Topic: RaMbLeS | 4


Loxodonta and Elephas are couple of smart species.

Maybe its their 10-lb brains (compared to the 3-lb human organ), that have as many neurons as do ours. They exhibit grief, can learn, mimic, show altruism, use tools, demonstrate compassion, engage in cooperation, be self-aware, remember, and even understand pointing—non-verbal communication. They are the only species, besides Homo sapiens, to have a death ritual

Now they have been shown to distinguish between human voices.


Aristotle declared of an elephant that it was …

the animal which surpasses all others in wit and mind.”

Scientists consider them as smart as chimps and dolphins.

Researchers played recordings of human voices to elephants in the Amboseli National Park, Kenya. The voices included those of local Maasai men, from a tribe that herds cattle and often clashes with elephants in the fight for access to water. Other voices were from Kamba men, from another tribe, usually employees of the National Park and rarely a threat to the big animals. Female voices and those of children from the Maasai tribe were also utilized.

All were recorded saying the same thing: “Look, look over there—a group of elephants is coming!” And the recordings were played to hundreds of elephants from some 40+ family groups.

In their report in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers describe something quite remarkable.

To the adult male Maasai voices, the elephants responded by gathering closer,  sniffing suspiciously with their trunks, and then slowly moving away. Not so for the other voices: Maasai voices from females or children did not evoke the same response of caution. Neither did the voices of the Kamba speakers.

Said Graeme Shannon, one of the researchers, from the University of Sussex.

The ability to distinguish between Maasai and Kamba men delivering the same phrase in their own language suggests that elephants can discriminate between different languages.”

Now it’s probably very unlikely the animals can understand the very words and syntax. More likely, they can distinguish the sing-songy Maasai language from that of the Kamba, and the language of adults from that of children, perhaps based on inflections and other cues.

Keith Lindsay, conservation biologist on the scientific advisory committee at Amboseli, remarked:

It is very sophisticated what the elephants are doing. A lot of animals will take flight at just the general threat posed by people, but a smart animal doesn’t do that. Their response to hearing Maasai men talking was to be alert, to move away, but not to run away in total fear.”

This was not a general response to threats. To recordings of lions roaring, the elephants grouped together, with juveniles in the center, and collectively moved towards the sounds, as if to scare the lion away.

Not bad, these elephants! They know what to fear and what to do when they fear.

We, too, are warned in the Bible to be on the watch for enemies and to be prepared.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness,
against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:11–12

These are dangerous days, with dangerous foes.

Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour. …
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace,
who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:8, 10–11

Victory is nigh!


  1. John Hilber March 30, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Abe! I thought for sure you were going to go for John 10:16; but I like the relevance to 1 Pet 5:8 as well. By the way, you ought to post your new Genesis commentary to your website.

  2. Sara Kaufman March 30, 2014 at 12:27 am

    I think this is your best one yet! Thanks for writing these as they are encouraging, and your last comment triggered my memory of singing the old hymn, “Victory in Jesus,” which speaks to me at this time.

    A few other verses I thought were relevant: Matt 10:28; Jude 24-25.

    Amen. Victory, indeed!

    “Victory in Jesus, My Savior, Forever!”


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