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Mat test shows elephants are ‘body aware’
Asian elephants are able to recognise their bodies as obstacles to success in problem-solving.

Study could inform human/elephant mitigation strategies

Asian elephants are able to recognise their bodies as obstacles to success in problem-solving, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, claims this ‘body awareness’ adds to increasing evidence of their intelligence.

“The more we can understand about elephants’ behaviour, the more we can understand what their needs are, how they think, and the strains they face in their social relationships,” explains study author Dr Josh Plotnik, a visiting researcher at the University of Cambridge.

“This will help us if we are going to try to come up with viable long-term solutions to the problems that these animals face in the wild, especially those that bring them into regular conflict with humans.”

In the study, researchers devised a new self-awareness test adapted from one used on children. In the children’s version, youngsters are asked to push a shopping trolley, but the trolley is attached to a mat on which they are standing.

In the elephant’s version, researchers attached a stick to a mat using a rope. The elephants were required to walk on the mat, pick up the stick and pass it to the experimenter in front of them. In a control portion of the test, the stick was unattached to the mat, meaning the elephant could still pass the stick whilst standing on it.

The aim of the experiment was to see whether elephants understood the role of their bodies as potential obstacles to success in the task. The researchers observed how and when the elephants removed themselves from the mat in order to exchange the stick.

The study found that elephants stepped off the mat to pass the stick to the experimenter significantly more during the test (42/48 times) than during the control (3/48 times).

Dr Plotnik argues that studies such as this are important to help increase our understanding of and appreciation for the behaviour and intelligence of animals.

He adds that understanding behaviour also has important implications for the development of human/elephant conflict mitigation strategies. 

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Blue Dog Programme wins WSAVA One Health award

News Story 1
 An educational initiative to help children interact safely with dogs has been awarded the WSAVA’s 2017 Global One Health Award.

The Blue Dog Programme offers an array of educational resources for children, parents and school teachers, including an engaging website, fact sheets, DVD and an accompany book for parents.

The award will be accepted by Professor Tiny de Keuster, a European veterinary specialist in behavioural medicine and founder of the programme, during WSAVA World Congress 2017.  

News Shorts
VMD stakeholder workshops to discuss Brexit implications

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has announced that it is to hold stakeholder group workshops to discuss the implications of EU exit.

The workshops will be held during Autumn 2017 and will discuss topics such as the prescribing cascade, pharmacovigilance and inspection of non-UK based manufacturers.

To register your interest, send an email to events@vmd.defra.gsi.gov.uk, including any topics, in order of preference, that you would like to be discussed.