Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Vincent J Musi: So our relationship with animals is constantly evolving. For the longest time science could just never accept what most pet owners know is that animals think and feel. But proving that they have thoughts and emotions is a lot of what this work is about. The question for me next is really about over these 10,000 years how does an animal that's intended for the dining room, how does it go to the living room? ( applause ) Vincent J Musi: Thank you, you're very kind. It all started for me when I bought a haunted house. (laughter) It's true. That's what the neighbors told me, but it was after I bought the house. Here's a photograph of it. (laughter) The previous tenants had heard all this scratching and kicking and rumbling and creaking all around the house, they thought it was the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe, who lived in the neighborhood, where I live now. So I did what any sane person would do, I called an exorcist. His name was Mike Hughes. And he's a trapper and a specialist in nuisance wildlife. So, he managed to get all the ghosts out of my house, the squirrels, the opossums, the nine raccoons, the birds, the rats. It was either that or to designate it a national wildlife refuge. (laughter) Now Mike had quite a menagerie at his own home and I was curious, so I photographed him. And some of his animals were opossums, an albino raccoon, and this iguana. So I asked around some of my colleagues. A lot of the guys do this. We're trying to do this eye contact thing, it's simple. We bring an animal, we put it on a seamless. I said, "What do we do?" And they said, "You know, all animals are food motivated. All you have to do is really kinda provide the set and this is going to work out for you. I thought, okay, that's cool. Well, mistakes were made. (audience roaring with laughter) Yeah. The idea here was to photograph these-- (audience laughter) Yeah, exactly, these superstars of the animal cognition. These are famous animals. Years of research had been done with them. Books had been written about them, scientific careers... And I was going to become the Annie Leibovitz of animal photographs. (laughter) And it was going to be all about eye contact and lighting. Right? Well, it's hard to do that when an animal won't look at you. (laughter) And with some animals, like this lemur, every time I picked up the camera, boom! He was gone. He'd shoot away. And my career, like the lemur, was vanishing before my eyes. (laughter) You don't get a lot of second chances. And I thought, why is this happening? Why am I being punished here? What have I done wrong? I went all the way to Austria to photograph this Marmoset. His name is Momo. He's really smart. Okay, big deal. And he smells really bad. (laughter) And his head is the size of a walnut. And he hates me. (laughter) See, it looks calm to you, doesn't it? No, it's not. (audience roaring with laughter) He's peeing on me. (laughter) He's peeing on my equipment, and he's telling his Marmoset friends to pee on me and pee on my equipment. (laughter) And he screamed at me and he wouldn't stop. And he told his friends to scream at me. And... I began to think that even fish were screaming at me from under water. This is a Gunnison's prairie dog, and he screamed at me too. Scientists believe these guys have language ability, sophisticated stuff, right. It's not like, "Aah! Bad things are happening... It's like, "There's a guy from National Geographic and he's gonna come here and take our picture." This guy screamed at me on the phone. (laughter) And, he... he's a rescued prairie dog from Phoenix. He was hit by a car and his name is Speed-bump. (laughter) And he lives in Wabash, Indiana. It's like I didn't know what to do, I couldn't take it anymore. I started to scream at him, back at him. And I started to interview him like... like a press conference, rapid fire. "Mr. Bump, how are the winters in Wabash? What do you think?" All this kind of stuff, and I sang to him. I did everything I could, and all of a sudden he just stopped. (audience roaring with laughter) So, you see, with Speed-bump, I discovered my inner Doctor Dolittle and I embarked on this new career, if I could just talk to the animals. Show this respect and patience, things I didn't have much of to be honest with you, I might find what I was looking for. Now, this is Kanzi. He was a real test for sure. Does anybody know Kanzi, he's a Bonobo. He's a pygmy chimpanzee. He understands about 3,000 spoken words. It's incredible. So, now he communicates with humans using this vocabulary that's drawn from like 350 symbols. It's lexigrams. And, they're printed on a sort of like, uh, place mat, laminated thing. He walks around with it and he makes complex sentences. "Kanzi wants this now with this person there." It's not like... pointing to the thing. And the lexigram for an orange may not look like an orange. It's real sophisticated stuff. So, I got there and they said, "What... what... what have you brought for Kanzi?" I said, "I didn't bring anything. I brought my lights." So, we have to ask his permission. And we have to ask him what he'd like. And so they, you know... (does hand movements) And Kanzi... (does hand movements) And, they interpreted that as "Kanzi would like Starbucks coffee for he and his Bonobo friends." (audience roaring with laughter) And so I had to send my assistant back into town to get six grande coffees with the simple syrup, for him and his Bonobo friends. And, Kanzi every once in a while, will do this sort of thing where he'll go... (does hand movements) And two grown-ups will chase each other through the halls. And it's his entertainment. We're around for entertainment. Now you'll notice that he never really quite looked at me. And it was intentional. No matter what I did, I could never get him to make eye contact. He is a very, very cool guy and very, very sharp. And I'm glad to have gone and done it. On the other extreme of this, this is Whack. She's a New Caledonian Crow, lives in Oxford, England. When she's not trying to poke the eyes out of visiting National Geographic photographers, which she did for two days, she excels at problem solving. Creating tools from materials she's never seen before, to solve problems she's never been presented before. An example is, they would take a test-tube and put something that she wanted at the bottom of it, food. And present her with things that you could make tools from. Now, what they didn't know to this point, was that these animals can make tools, which is different than using tools. Chimps do this, humans do this, very few animals possess this capability. And Whack could take something and fashion a tool from it to reach into the test-tube and get the thing out of it, that you were looking for from something she'd never been presented before. It's amazing stuff. Now, this is Betsy. Betsy is so famous that that's not even her real name. (laughter) I'm not kidding. She's a Border Collie living in Vienna. And she has the vocabulary of a toddler. She can hear a word once or twice, and know that it means something. She can link photographs with an object in the photograph. An example would be to show her a photograph of a teddy bear. Let's say it's Randy, right. And say, "Go find Randy." And send her into another room full of these stuffed animals. She'll look around and she's got-- she's pretty good, and she'll find the thing in the photograph, bring it back to you. Two or three times, come back in six months, she's got it locked in. It... It's an incredible thing. We put Shanti here, she's a 9,000-pound Asian elephant, we put her on an enormous white seamless background. You know, they are amongst the most intelligent animals, they grieve, mimic behavior, they have language abilities, memory. But then they look in the mirror, they see themselves. And it's a rare cognitive accomplishment, that we know is only shared by great apes and dolphins and some humans. (audience roaring with laughter) At the Bronx Zoo, elephants were put in front of mirrors. And at first they treated the mirror as an object as you might imagine. But then, they started to check themselves out. They'd lift their trunks and they would look at things and different places. See, for the longest time science could just never accept what most pet owners know, is that animals think and feel. But proving, proving that they have thoughts and emotions is a lot of what this work is about. And the scientists can consider this a collaboration between them and the animals. Their work teaches us about the boundaries of humanity. It's really exciting stuff but it's about these characteristics that are distinctly human and things that aren't. This is a lemur at Duke. His name is Aristides, and they used to think these guys were not so smart. They are primates but they are on the lower end. But he learns like a toddler does. He is learning how to count. He uses a touch screen with his nose. And all this stuff is food rewards, right? So you do this right, the sequence... you get something, but they, they have great enthusiasm for it, so they don't need to be fed. They just like to do it. And rats, they may or may not have a sense of humor, but they laugh. There's a guy at Bowling Green, his name is Jaak Panksepp. And they call him the rat tickler. He takes rats, and he tickles them, and they laugh. (laughter) So, they are trying to figure... They play jokes on each other and stuff. And there's not a day that goes by we don't learn something about honey bees, right. They are really, highly evolved socially, and they have this complex behavior of communication and navigation. They learn colors and scents. And they can map their environment out. All with a brain the size of a milligram. It's a little, tiny thing. And, and now according to some work we think-- we find out they might have emotions. They might possess pessi-- pessimism. This is a Scrub Jay called Psychobird. (laughter) And they plan for the future. They take these birds, and when they go to sleep at night. And wake up in two different rooms. And in one room, in the morning they feed them breakfast. And in the other room, they don't. And after a while they give them the option to feed at night. And what they do, is they do this thing called caching. They take food, put it in their mouth, they hide it.