BBP authorities have noticed 20-year-old tusker Sunder and female elephant Menaka regularly using the twigs to…Read More

MYSURU: In an interesting incident, two elephants from Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) in Bengaluru were seen using a piece of twig as a tool to scratch ear and mouth like humans and chimpanzees.
BBP authorities have noticed 20-year-old tusker Sunder and female elephant Menaka regularly using the twigs to scratch their bodies.
BBP executive director Vanashri Vipin Singh said that taking and using an object to solve problems is called tool use.
“Humans use tools for majority of the daily activities but have other animals adapted to use tools to solve problems? Yes, just like humans, other animals also have a high level of cognition. A piece of twig may not be of any importance to us but not for our rescued elephant in BBP,” she said.
Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) is home to 23 Asian elephants, mainly captive born but some rescued from temples. Sunder (20 years) was rescued from a temple in Kolhapur in Maharashtra and housed in BBP since 2014.
Vanashri said that recently, Sunder was seen using a piece of twig to scratch specific areas in his ear and mouth, which was not possible otherwise with his trunk or by just rubbing himself against a tree. His fellow elephant, Menaka, was also seen performing the same behavior by scratching under her neck and belly area with a twig.
“Tool use in elephants is not unique but the level of complexity varies with individuals. A study by Hart and others in 2001 shows how elephants use and modify branches to repel flies in Nagarahole National Park in Mysuru indicating that the cerebral cortex in the brain and body ratio is greater than that of any primate species.
Hence, elephants are equivalent to great apes, such as chimpanzees and orangutans in terms of cognitive ability for tool use and manufacture. Other species such as crows and other birds, dolphins, monkeys and octopus also have been known to use tools to solve complex situations,” she said.

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