Non-virtual pachyderms

Today I am visiting my mother. I showed her the interactive computer animated virtual mammoth I’ve been working on. Then my mother told me about the real elephants she saw a few weeks ago. She just recently came back from a two week trip to Africa (mostly Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana) with some friends. They spent time most of the time in the jungle amidst the lions, giraffes, elephants and hippopotamuses.

My mother described to me one particularly memorable incident. She was observing a large elephant that was standing at the edge of a river, eating some of the tall grass that grows in the water.

Another smaller elephant also saw the yummy grass, and sauntered up to join in the feast. When the second elephant got to the water’s edge, the first elephant pushed the smaller elephant firmly away with its trunk. The smaller elephant promptly beat a retreat.

Then, as my mother watched, the second elephant slowly returned to the water’s edge, step by quiet step, taking care to not disturb its larger acquaintance. In the end, both elephants were standing side by side, happily munching on the river grass.

My mother told me she was astonished at how human this whole interaction seemed. The second elephant had clearly figured out that the problem wasn’t that the first elephant didn’t want to share the grass, but rather that the first elephant simply didn’t like to be disturbed while it was eating.

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