A new study has shown that elephants possess greater intelligence and problem-solving abilities than previously thought. Researchers conducted experiments using complex puzzle boxes to assess the intelligence of 77 wild Asian elephants at the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary, located northwest of Bangkok, Thailand.
Over a period of six months, scientists observed these elephants solving puzzles to access food locked within the boxes. The puzzle boxes were designed with three different compartments that interlocked to conceal strongly scented jackfruit. Trap cameras recorded the results, capturing instances where elephants interacted with the obstacle by pulling chain doors and sliding parts to access the food.
Among the 77 elephants, 44 attempted to access the food, with 11 successfully completing the first compartment, eight solving the second compartment, and only five reaching the hidden fruit. This research represents the first study demonstrating that individual wild elephants exhibit varying degrees of willingness and problem-solving abilities when it comes to obtaining food.
Sarah Jacobson, the lead author of the study and a psychology doctoral candidate at CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College, highlighted the significance of this discovery. She noted that understanding how animals think and innovate can influence their survival in environments rapidly changing due to human presence.
Dr. Joshua Plotnik, the principal investigator of the study, emphasized the growing conflicts between elephants and humans due to habitat loss. Consequently, enhancing our comprehension of these intelligent animals and their abilities is crucial.