By P.K. Read
Numerous studies on various animals have surprised and delighted human observers by demonstrating that some animals are much more intelligent and self-aware than previously thought.
If over the centuries or millennia we humans were able to persuade ourselves that we were alone in being self-aware, intelligent and moral, those haughty self-assessments have given way to a reluctant acknowledgement: While other creatures on the planet may not be quite as dizzyingly verbal, deft or introspective as we consider ourselves, they nonetheless meet the criteria for being sentient.
A recent study furthered this realization with examples of just how very smart elephants are, and even plants have a kind of sentience that is just starting to reveal itself. We are all a part of the same fabric.
One study after another has shown that the very animals we have hunted almost into extinction, whom we are loathe to offer the same respect we would offer a house pet, are among the most empathetic creatures alive, our close cousins in feeling. Elephants, chimpanzees, orangutans, bottlenose dolphins, magpies – all of them pass the so-called Mirror Test.
The Mirror Test is a means of evaluating whether an animal is able to recognize itself in a mirror, and is used to indicate whether a non-human animals possesses self-awareness.
This very first International World Wildlife Day (WWD), proclaimed by United Nations General Assembly to mark the March 3 anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is meant to raise awareness of endangered species around the world.
I’d like to call attention to the literal awareness of our fellow creatures. The sentience of animals, whether we understand it or not, is as important and mysterious as our own. Do we pass the real Mirror Test – that we can mirror the life we value for ourselves in how we treat our fellow creatures?