There’s New Evidence That Elephants Understand Humans, Are Smarter Than You Think

Especially if it helps them find hidden food.

1. Scientists at the University of St Andrews have shown that African elephants can understand human gestures instinctively.

Anna Smet and Richard Byrne /

This photo is an actual figure from their scientific paper detailing the findings. The researchers think the elephants’ understanding is instinctive, rather than learned, because they were just as good at it the first time they did it as the last.

In humans, babies learn this skill early on. But other animals, even chimpanzees, don’t seem to get it.

2. Watch one of the elephants follow gestures in this video.

Video available at:
University of St Andrews

3. Scientists are yet to study how well humans understand gestures made by elephants.


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Kelly Oakes is science editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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