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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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Campaign highlights ‘devastating impact’ of smoking around pets

News Story 1
 Leading vet charity PDSA has launched a campaign highlighting the ‘devastating impact’ that smoking can have on pets. The launch coincides with National No Smoking Day (14 March 2018) and aims to raise awareness of the risks of passive smoking and how to keep pets safe.

“Recent studies highlight that this is a really serious issue, and we want pet owners to know that they can make a real difference by simply choosing to smoke outdoors away from their pets,” said PDSA vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan. “We want pet owners to realise that, if they smoke, their pets smoke too.”  

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News Shorts
AWF named charity of the year

The Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) has been chosen as charity of the year by the Veterinary Marketing Association (VMA). AWF is a vet-led charity, supported by the BVA, which aims to improve animal welfare though research funding, supporting veterinary education, providing pet care advice and encouraging debate on welfare issues.

VMA has pledged a range of support, including raising awareness and funds at their awards ceremony, which takes place on Friday 16 March, as well as offering marketing support through VMA marketing workshops.