I am a PhD student studying the cognition of African elephants under the supervision of Professor Richard Byrne
Field studies and anecdotal accounts of the remarkable social behaviours of elephants have been well-documented, however, until recently there was little experimental evidence for the cognitive processes that may underlie such behaviours. The complex social structures and advanced abilities of elephants have apparently evolved separately from those of the great apes, as indicated by their separate lineages. This convergent evolution between primates and elephants can help us to understand the evolutionary pressures that have selected for such shared abilities, but the study of elephant cognition is still in its infancy compared to that of primates. In my work with two herds of captive African elephants living in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe I will use controlled experiments, comparable to those done with primates, to test how these animals comprehend and manipulate their physical and social environments.