Elephants can understand human pointing without training

In the study, published in Current Biology, the researchers show that a group of 11 captive Zimbabwean elephants, which were used to following vocal instructions but weren’t trained to respond to pointing, could find hidden food by interpreting where humans were pointing. One reason for this could be that elephants use their trunks to gesticulate themselves. “Elephants do regularly make prominent trunk gestures, for instance when one individual detects the scent of a dangerous predator.”

“Even our closest relatives, the great apes, typically fail to understand pointing when it’s done for them by human carer.”


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