Friday, October 11, 2013
Elephants understand human gesture
From the first trial, the elephants chose the correct bucket. The results are published in the journal Current Biology.
The scientists worked with captive elephants at a lodge in Zimbabwe. Prof Richard Byrne, a co-author on the research, said the elephants had been rescued from culling operations and trained for riding.
"They specifically train the elephants to respond to vocal cues. They don't use any gestures at all," said Prof Byrne.
"The idea is that the handler can walk behind the elephant and just tell it what to do with words."
Despite this, the animals seemed to grasp the meaning of pointing from the outset. This makes them the only non-human animals to understand the gesture without being trained to do so.
In previous studies, Prof Byrne said, our closest primate cousins, the chimpanzees, proved to be "hopeless" at at similar task.
Ms Smet added that she had been impressed by the animals' apparently innate understanding of the gesture. Read more >>