WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 (UPI) — An elephant at the National Zoo in Washington devised a problem-solving strategy to reach a branch with his trunk and grab a treat, zoo officials said.
Kandula, the zoo’s youngest elephant, figured out how to roll a large cube underneath the branch and stand on it to secure his meal.
Scientists said that sort of spontaneous problem-solving had never been seen in elephants before, even though they can recognize themselves in mirrors, drop logs to collapse fences to get to food and even dig wells, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
“We knew elephants were intelligent,” said Diana Reiss, who studies animal intelligence at City University of New York.
But although as intelligent as dolphins and chimpanzees in some ways, researchers said, all attempts to get elephants to spontaneously solve a problem had previously failed.
In a study published in the journal PLoS One, researchers described hanging bamboo and fruit just out of reach of elephants at the National Zoo, placing a cube or aluminum tub nearby.
In the seventh session, researchers said, Kandula “just suddenly did it.”
And in the next session, Kandula rolled the cube all over the elephant compound, using it to reach a flower he wanted to sniff and to play with a toy hung from a tree, they said.