Every once and a while the debate about animal intelligence flares up in the media. Experts who say that humans are still by far the most intelligent species on Earth point to our long history of scientific discovery and philosophical discourse. People who argue that animals are more intelligent point to things like pro wrestling, Enron and Geraldo Rivera. And possibly also humor columnists.
Seriously though, humans are, collectively speaking, the dominant species on Earth; we have the power to do a lot of things. Every once and a while though, animals get their own back.
Consider, for example, the recent article about a man in Yorkshire, England, who had designed a bird feeding hat. Sure, the invention sounds a bit, well, bird-brained, but he was trying to be nice; he liked walking in the woods, it had been a hard winter for birds and food was scarce. What he didn't count on, was the squirrel.
As anyone who has ever tried to feed their backyard birds knows, squirrels like to raid birdfeeders. Humans, in turn, try to stop these raids — which has led to a pitched battle between furry and non-furry suburbanites lasting more than 50 years. So I can just imagine the squirrels in the English forest on the day our man in Yorkshire went for a walk:
JAMES: Look, Mugsy, it's a walking birdfeeder!
MUGSY: Yet another scheme to cheat us out of a good day's seed feed. The rogue!
JAMES: Let's show him squirrels will never be defeated!
MUGSY: For the Furryhood! Bonzaaaaaaai!
Yes, it's true — a squirrel landed on his head traveling at speeds exceeding 30 miles per hour (imagine little furry squirrel lips being pulled back by the wind and g-force) and concussed him so hard he got whiplash. No word on whether he has returned to walking in the woods.
Or consider the story of a Japanese zoo that has taken to practicing “polar bear breakouts.” Japan, a nation cleverly situated in a major earthquake zone (see also California), has this inconvenient problem with buildings falling down from time to time.
Zoo officials are apparently worried that polar bears might use an earthquake for a jailbreak, and so have been practicing for it. This involves — I swear — having one of their workers dress up in a bear suit and pretend to terrorize zoo patrons. So far, the results of these practice runs have been:
A) The real polar bears dissolve into fits of laughter whenever the guy in the bear suit comes out. They also throw seal bits at him.
B) The guy in the bear suit gets kicked in the shins by disapproving five-year-olds.
C) The gorillas sulk because officials didn't think they were dangerous enough to warrant breakout practices. They throw bananas at the guy in the bear suit.
In India, meanwhile, women in the Jharkhand region have lately been forced to give birth to their children in…trees. This is because wild elephants have taken to storming villages in search of the rice beer that villagers brew, and its never a good idea to get between an elephant and his afternoon pint. In fact, it's not a good idea to get between an elephant and anything, especially if you like being three dimensional. You know what they say: An elephant never forgets… how squishy humans can be.
And finally, it has been reported that some birds, like starlings, have learned how to imitate mobile phone ring tones. This has led to all sorts of confusion at outdoor cafes, where teenage birds like to hang out.
CHIRP: Hey lads, I bet I can make all those humans jump and reach for their pockets at once.
CHIP: Can not.
CHIRP: Can too.
CHEEP: Right then. Prove it.
ALL BIRDS: Hee hee hee hee hee hee!
Which just goes to prove that other old saying: birds of a feather play practical jokes together.
To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.