Elephants in the Mirror

We visited the elephants at the Swiss national circus Knie. What makes them obey humans? Is the circus able to offer them enough exercise? Franko Knie paves the way for a unique experiment: an intelligence test shows how the animals master brain teasers.

On an elephant farm in northern Germany, Sonni Frankello lets us conduct the mirror test with these pachyderms: will they attack their reflection? And how do the animals cope with being on long tours? Do they remain calm?


Director: Volker Arzt

Volker Arzt has been working on TV for decades. His background is a degree in theoretical physics, but his passion is moving pictures. He made about 200 documentaries about scientific, medical or ecological topics for children and adults. The project ‘smart birds’ fits right in in with his favourite subject: cognitive abilities of living creatures – reasons for differences, evolutionary development and the part they play in daily life. Ravens and parrots for example are particularly intelligent and smart and seem to have an understanding for techniques and every-day physics. Only legend or scientific knowledge? What may be the outcome of a competition between the smartest representatives of crows and parrots? We can look forward to finding out!

43 Min.
Director: Volker Arzt
Script: Volker Arzt, Immanuel Birmelin
Cinematography: Brian McClatchy
Editing: Harald E. Hohmann
Music: Thomas Stelzer
Narrator: Hans-Peter Bögel
Editor: Gabriele Conze(WDR), Catherine Le Goff(ARTE)
Nominations: sh:z Audience Award 2011