Personality and Problem Solving in Asian Elephants (Sri Lanka)

Title

Personality and Problem Solving in Asian Elephants (Sri Lanka)

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Research Question

Is personality in Asian elephants related to individual problem-solving success on a puzzle box task? Does this have implications for mitigating human-elephant conflict?

Significance

Asian elephants are considered endangered, due in part to crop-raiding, a potentially dangerous behavior that leads to human-elephant conflict. Through work in Uda Walawe National Park in Sri Lanka, Benson-Amram and her Ph.D. student, Lisa Barrett, will work with Dr. Shermin de Silva to address this conservation issue by determining which individual elephants may be most likely to engage in such risky behavior. Benson-Amram and Barrett also plan to initiate an animal behavior and conservation education program, which will use Skype and YouTube to connect to classrooms around the world.

Methods Used

Novel object tasks, behavioral observations, and puzzle box tasks will be used in the field and in U.S. zoos with captive elephants.

Conclusions/Outcomes

A pilot field visit resulted in a better understanding of how the work could be carried out with wild elephants. Several zoos have approved the proposed research, and testing will soon begin with captive Asian elephants.

Publication Date

Summer 2015

Disciplines

Zoology

Personality and Problem Solving in Asian Elephants (Sri Lanka)

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