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  • 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.