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The Elephants In The Room

Elephants cooperate and prove how smart they really are.

elephant in mud

Photo: kanu101 (flickr)

An elephant plays in the mud.

Elephants are very smart animals and have been known to recognize themselves in a mirror. This characteristic occurs in many animals that show empathy. However, because of their large size, scientists have always had trouble testing their intelligence.

The Experiment

Using an experiment adopted from tests on primates, scientists can now report that elephants are a highly intelligent species.

Scientists worked with 12 Asian elephants to see if they could work together. In the experiment, two ropes needed to be pulled for a pair of elephants to receive a tasty bucket of corn on the other end. The elephants could only get the corn if both pulled on the rope at the same time.

The scientists found that after introducing elephants to the rope, an elephant would wait up to 45 seconds for their partner to also pull the rope. It is clear they knew that pulling the rope without a partner lead to no reward. Similarly, an elephant would not pull the rope if its partner’s rope was not within reach.

Here is a video of the experiment:

So it seems that cooperation in the wild is essential for this social animal.

New Solutions

Another interesting note about the study is that the elephants tried different techniques to get the corn. One elephant stood on the rope, forcing it’s partner to do most of the work. Another elephant waited around for a partner before approaching the rope.

It is apparent that elephants learn different strategies. They do not always use the model example given to them.

Future Research And Conservation

Researchers hope this experiment will lead to more studies on elephant intelligence. Knowing how elephants think and react is beneficial to conservation efforts.

Read More:

  • Elephants Cooperate, Proving How Smart They Really Are (LiveScience)
Margaret Aprison

Margaret is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Telecommunications and a minor in Psychology. The daughter of two scientists, Margaret has been surrounded by the subject her entire life. She enjoys social media, writing, television, and, of course, science!

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