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Elephant At National Zoo Can Solve Problems

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Daily exercises keep elephants’ limbs loose and their minds sharp.
Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Daily exercises keep elephants’ limbs loose and their minds sharp.

Over in the Zoo's elephant house, Kandula is busy bowing and curtsying to a trainer's commands.

Don Moore, associate director for animal care sciences at the zoo, says these daily exercises keep elephants' limbs loose and their minds sharp.

"They're so smart that we have to challenge them mentally every day," he says.

But Moore says scientists only recently discovered just how smart elephants are.

"We gave the elephants a variety of boxes, tires and butcher blocks," he says. "Kandula then was able to smell the food which was up above him. He moved a cube over and stood on it and he got the food."

He did the same thing with a tire.

"Kandula brought butcher blocks over, and made kind of a mound of blocks that he could stand on to get to the food."

Moore says only chimps and dolphins had demonstrated that kind of insightful behavior.

“Well, what we think is if people think animals are more like humans, it makes it so that we maybe have more responsibility of stewardship of animals and for their conservation for future generations.

But for now, Kandula's just focused on his next treat.

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