Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Elephants Cooperate, So Do People, Which Is Why I Couldn't Tell You About This Experiment Six Years Ago

From the new* Scientific American (I can only read the intro without paying):
"At the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, tucked away in the trees near Chiang Mai, a pair of Asian elephants gazes at two bowls of corn on the other side of a net. The corn is attached to a sliding platform, through which researchers have threaded a rope. The rope's ends lie on the elephants' side of the net. If only one elephant pulls an end, the rope slides out of the contraption. To bring the food within trunk's reach, the elephants have to do something only humans and other primates were thought to do: they must cooperate. Working in synchrony, each elephant grabs its end of the rope in its trunk and pulls, drawing the platform and the treats within reach."

photo from my April 2009 post
We met Josh Plotnick, the experimenter, in Chiangmai, in 2008.  We went to visit the elephant conservation center in 2009 where we saw his elephants and the experiment he was doing.  But I could only hint back then.  Here's from my first post on the elephant sanctuary in Lampang then:
"JP is a doctoral student doing his dissertation research here at the center. We met him last year and finally got a chance to go out and visit him in the center. His research is very interesting but I was sworn to silence until his work is published."
Here's a link to the second post on the sanctuary which focused on the hospital and nursery.

*It's hard figuring out online what the date of this Scientific American is.  It says, "

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