Animal Intelligence.

The question was asked again; where do your stories come from? A fellow I know who is in the book trade told me my mind was like a compost bin. There’s a lot of rubbish in there that needs to be turned over and now and then something interesting comes out.

Margie from Backroads et al commented on my uncle’s desire to stay alive until he had seen everyone and then he just turned off the switch. Now I don’t understand how composting works but her comment set me off.

There is lot about how the human brain works but one thing that has been taken for granted for centuries is that the difference between us and all the other animals is that we have the ability to think and reason – they are creatures of instinct. Well I’m not too sure.

When I left the Army I needed a couple of years away from work to look after two young children so I opened a small bookshop. In my shop I sold books but I also had an armchair and I made coffee. I didn’t sell coffee, I just made it for certain people. These were customers who fell into a few discrete categories. I am ashamed to say that they were mostly attractive single mothers who dropped their charges off at the primary school three doors up the hill and then had nothing to do for the rest of the day except to talk about what kind of person their ex-husband had been – and drink my coffee. Or they were older wealthy people who wanted to buy large expensive books.

I remember well one particular woman who came into the shop and browsed around for a while without actually looking for anything. She was the sort of person who needed a coffee to give her the excuse to talk about more that books. This was the third category and my favourite.

She said she was looking for something special for her son. I forget what his job was but he had broken his back and was so depressed that he would not cooperate with the therapists who were trying to get him motivated. Now I don’t get too concerned about people with physical injuries. My mother spent more than half her life in a wheelchair as the result of a car accident. So did I have anything that might interest him? He had been a fanatic scuba diver and loved the sea.

I jumped up because I had just the thing. I don’t remember the book although I have searched for it for forty years. It was a book about underwater photography. But about halfway through there was a series of photographs about a helmet shell.

The photographer had been doing a survey on the effect that bottom trawling had on the marine environment. He had waited for a trawler to go past and as he waited for the water to clear he noticed that the fishermen in the ship above were throwing back anything they didn’t want.

He noticed two helmet shells that fell through the water and landed in the sand. One shell landed upside down and try as it might the mollusc in the shell could not turn itself upright. The diver was going to roll it over until he saw one of the greatest things he could imagine. The second mollusc which had landed upright about three metres away began to crawl toward the other one. When it arrived it butted its shell against the first one but could not turn it over.

It then started to bulldoze the sand away from one side and a small trench began to appear. It took a number of minutes but eventually the trench was deep enough and the shell rolled into it and was upright. The two shells then went on their merry way.

I gave the lady the book. I wouldn’t let her pay for it.

She came back about six weeks later with a huge smile on her face. Her son was progressing; it was going to take a lot of time but he was determined to get back in the water.

Later I might tell the story of my father’s Hereford cow who was the herd Maternity nurse.

13 thoughts on “Animal Intelligence.

  1. Thanks for that. I’m sure our two dogs can think. Then we hear stories of dogs learning to manage sheep. Some of it is instinct but we use it too. I’m sure you didn’t make a lot of money in your book shop if you gave away expensive books. But there’s no price on sympathy and interest in people.

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  2. A wonderful story of cooperation between two animals that we don’t believe have that capability. There are so many similar stories that I have to think we have much more research to be done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The most intelligent birds seem to be crows which are at least as clever as a child aged 5-7. They can make tools to get at food placed in a glass measuring cylinder by snapping off twigs and breaking them into the right shape. If the food happens to be floating on water, but is out of reach, they will put stones in to raise the water level. Recently a New Caledonia Crow was seen to be teaching the others how to do the tricks it had mastered.

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    1. And a crow in Japan was filmed getting cars to crush nuts for them. It waited for somebody to press the button at a pedestrian crossing and it would tale the nut out and then wait for the cars to start again.

      Liked by 1 person

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