Elephants recently tested for their intelligence and ability to work with others, astounded scientists with their aptitude to learn and solve problems.
Two of them even outsmarted the scientists who developed the test.
A story from Discovery News reported that 12 male and female elephants from the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, Thailand participated in the study that was published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It placed elephants on the same intelligence level as chimpanzees and dolphins.
Researchers placed tasty corn on a sliding table with ropes tied to it. A volleyball net blocked the elephants from walking to the table and helping themselves to the corn. The only way for the animals to get the treat was by pulling on the ropes and moving the table closer to them.
When the elephants were tested individually, each one successfully learned how to maneuver the ropes.
Next the scientists rearranged the sliding tables so that it took two elephants working as a team to bring the food to them. Again the elephants quickly learned the task with some waiting up to 45 seconds for their partner to arrive to help out.
According to Discovery News, “If the researchers did not release this second elephant, the first one basically looked around as if to say: ‘You’ve got to be kidding. It takes two to do this.’”
But two elephants named Neua Un and JoJo figured out ways to outsmart the scientists.
“We were pleasantly surprised to see the youngest elephant, Neua Un, use her foot to hold the rope so that her partner had to do all the work,” said Joshua Plotnik, Cambridge University researcher.
“I hadn’t thought about this beforehand, and Neua Un seemed to figure it out by chance, but it speaks volumes to the flexibility of elephant behavior that she was able to figure this out and stick to it.”
JoJo was so intelligent that he didn’t even bother to walk to the volleyball testing area, unless his partner was released with him.
Plotnik said, “In the wild, there are fascinating anecdotes of elephants working together to lift or help fallen members, and forming clusters to protect younger elephants.”
“We tend to think that elephants and humans are greatly different,” said Satoshi Hirata of Japan’s Great Ape Research Institute. “But the study results show that we share some social mind skills with elephants.”
Photo from: Creative Commons - Sarahemcc