To say parrots are "smart" would be the understatement of the year. Anyone who's owned or been around parrots for any significant length of time will agree that parrots are some of the world's smartest animals.
This is apparent in the story of Alex, an African Gray with Einstein-like capabilities of solving puzzles and differentiating between various colors and shapes. More recently, however, a parrot was credited for assisting India police in solving a murder mystery.
Although he's since passed, Alex (1977-2007) opened our eyes to the true intelligence and emotional capacity of African Greys. Irene Pepperberg, an animal physiologist at Harvard University, purchased Alex so she could prove to the world that African Greys were smarter than most people give them credit for. What started out as an experiment, however, blossomed into a true friendship bond that crosses over from one species to another.
African Greys are medium-sized parrots that are known for being highly intelligent and easy to train. If you've ever owned one before, you are probably well aware of their learning potential. Even without any professional training, it's quite easy to train an African Grey basic vocabulary along with other skills. However, Pepperberg used advanced training techniques to really show just how smart these parrots truly are.
The Early Days of Alex
While working at Perdue University, Irene Pepperberg purchased Alex from a pet store when he was just one year old. After bringing Alex into her classroom, Pepperberg began to perform some intelligence tests to see what her new parrot was capable of doing.
She would have either a teacher or student perform basic tasks in front of Alex in hopes that he would copy what they were doing. He caught on quickly and was not only copying their movements, but he was also correcting them when they made a mistake.
Alex's Learning Continues...
Pepperberg decided to take Alex's learning to the next level by exposing him to different colors. Through constant training, Alex was soon able to distinguish between different colors.
When his Pepperberg would ask Alex how many green objects were on the table, Alex would could them and respond by saying the correct number. This alone was an astounding feat that really shocked and amazed everyone who saw it, but it didn't end there.
Alex was also able to distinguish between different shapes. If Pepperberg asked him how many triangles, squares or circles were placed in front of him, Alex would respond with the correct number.
Pepperberg's research changed the way people view parrots, especially African Greys, in terms of their intelligence and learning capabilities.
The incident occurred on February 20, 2014, in the small Indian town of Agra. The town's local police found Neelam Sharma murdered in her apartment, and originally they had little-to-no leads to follow. Sharma's husband, however, noticed their parrot was acting strange when his nephew Ashutosh entered the apartment.
According to the NationalPost.com, the parrot squawked "Usne maara, usne maara" when the Ashutosh was around, which translated into "He's the killer! He's the killer!" Police responded to reports of the talking parrot by arresting Ashutosh and charging him for the murder of his aunt Sharma.
"We got a lot of help from the parrot to zero in on the murderer," said a spokesperson for the Agra police. Following his arrest, Ashutosh confessed to the killing, claiming he simply wanted to rob valuables from her apartment. Once his aunt noticed he was robbing the apartment, Ashutosh murdered her in hopes of covering his tracks.
"During discussions too, whenever Ashutosh's name was mentioned the parrot would start screeching." This raised my suspicion and I informed police," said Sharma's husband.
Shalabh Mathur of the Agra police said the following in a recent statement to the press:
"We checked his call details and took him in custody. He accepted his crime and informed us that he was accompanied by an accomplice. They had entered the house with the intention of taking away cash and other valuables."
But some people remain dubious over claims the parrot was able to spot, and identify, the killer. It's not uncommon for parrots to mimic words and phrases frequently spoken by family members, but it would certainly be an exceptionally rare feat for one to say "He's the killer! He's the killer!," such as this case. Of course, stranger things have happened in this world, so I wouldn't write it off as a tall tale just yet...
Alex passed away on September 6, 2007 at the young age of 31. The night before his death, Alex said, "you be good, see you tomorrow. I love you." No one knows exactly what triggered his death, but medical examiners believe it was related to a heart condition.
Video of Alex
We'd love to hear your opinion about the murder-solving parrot in the comments section below!