Episode available within Canada only.

How smart are animals? Traditionally, we’ve answered that question by comparing them to us. But recently scientists have begun to Think Like an Animal.

In this entertaining, thought-provoking documentary, we explore exciting new research and dispel old myths about how animals really think. From the foothills of the Canadian Rockies to a nature reserve in South Africa, Think Like an Animal features cutting edge researchers and the fascinating creatures they’re studying - animals that possess more complex cognitive skills and emotional depth than we humans once assumed. 

Think Like an Animal features species that have largely been ignored or underestimated, with surprising results: bearded dragons that imitate each other, fish that deceive one another, tortoises that are anything but slow, sperm whales that have underwater conversations.

Meet Six Creatures with Surprising Smarts
Up Close with the Sperm Whale Families of the Caribbean Sea

“We’re such a self-absorbed species,” points out Louise Barrett, a University of Lethbridge psychology professor who studies social cognition at the Vervet Monkey Research Project in South Africa.  “We’re always asking are they as clever as us? Can they do what we do?

Prof. Barrett’s approach is quite different; to her, intelligence is all about what an animal needs to know in order to survive in its world, not ours. After all, she notes, “we are just another animal.”

SCENE FROM THE FILM: Hummingbirds are amazing at remembering the location and types of flowers.

“They’re smarter than me,” laughs Canadian biologist Andy Hurly, as he demonstrates an experiment testing the memory skills of wild hummingbirds. Despite having brains the size of a grain of rice, these beautiful birds can not only remember the exact location of a flower – they remember when they last visited that flower to sample its nectar.

Behind The Scenes: How Do You Film A Bird Whose Wings Flap 70 Times a Second?
How to Take the Perfect Hummingbird Photo

And then there’s Esther the Wonder Pig. “Esther is 650 pounds of pure genius,” marvels Steve Jenkins. Jenkins and his partner have always been animal lovers. When they were approached to take in a so-called “mini-pig,” they had no idea that they were actually adopting a commercial farm pig. But Esther is no ordinary house pet; she quickly learned how to open doors, sneak into the refrigerator, and head straight to the tub for bathtime.

Meet Esther the Wonder Pig
Listen to an interview with director Leora Eisen

SCENE FROM THE FILM: Sperm whales communicate in their own language, complete with local dialects.

Featuring spectacular cinematography including underwater footage of sperm whales and hummingbirds in slow motion, Think Like an Animal is a unique visual experience. And by providing a glimpse into the inner lives of animals and challenging conventional wisdom, the film raises important questions about how we humans think about and treat our fellow creatures.

Credits (Click to expand)

Produced, Directed and Written by 
Leora Eisen

Executive Producer
Gordon Henderson


Michael Hannan

Director Of Photography
Michael Grippo csc


Production Manager
Susanne Cuffe

Additional Photography
Herbert Brauer, SA
Nigel Kinnings, UK

Phantom Photography
Daron Donahue
aAron Munson

Sound Recordist
Mike Josselyn
John Grove
Ivo Hanak
Kevin Mackenzie
Mogali Mamaila


Original Music
Bruce Fowler

Associate Producer
Rita Kotzia

Leora Eisen
Rita Kotzia

Wildlife Film Consultant
Caroline Underwood


Visual Researcher
Gina Cali

Assistant Editor
Ian Sit

Audio Mix
Mike Duncan

Additional Audio Mix
Shane Duncan

Online Editor/Colourist
Mario Baptista


Visual Archives
Steve Jenkins
Derek Walter
Getty Images
Howard Hall
Carl Finkbeiner / Nature Footage
Eric Cheng / Nature Footage
Tom Rutherford


Special Thanks
Anne Bøttcher
Asante Sana
Buttle Farm
Captain Dave
Dr. Chris Young
Christine Konrad
Colin Dubreil
Dominica Film Commission / Fisheries Div. – Ministry
     of Agriculture and Fisheries
Dominica Sperm Whale Project


Special Thanks
Elizabeth Allen, University of Lincoln
Freya Coursey
Maria Tello Ramos
Mayra Marino, Safina Center
Dr. Mike Mendl, University of Bristol
Pernille Tønnesen
Richardo Barrett
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
Samara Private Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Table Mountain Films Facilitation and Crew
Vervet Monkey Research Project


Produced with the participation of




Produced by

© 2016 90th Parallel Productions Ltd.


For the CBC

General Manager, Programming
Sally Catto

Executive Director, Unscripted Content
Jennifer Dettman

Senior Director, Documentary
Sandra Kleinfeld

Executive in Charge of Production
Sue Dando

Director Of Production, Unscripted Content
Alexandra Lane

Director Of Finance, Unscripted Content
Julie Lawlor

The Nature of Things
with David Suzuki

produced by
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation


produced in association with


The Wild Canadian Year

Wild Canadian Year

Visit our website to watch the series online, discover extra behind-the-scenes stories and view Canada's nature scenes in 360. Visit Wild Canadian Year

From CBC Kids

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