Behaviour 2019
Behavioral Traits Associated with Innovation in Wild Asian Elephants Using a Multi-Access Puzzle Box
Sarah L. Jacobson1,2, Marnoch Yindee3, Joshua M. Plotnik1,2. 1Psychology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York City, NY, United States; 2Psychology, Hunter College, City University of New York, New York City, NY, United States; 3Akkharatchakumari Veterinary College, Walailak University, Tha Sala, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand

The ability to solve novel problems is one aspect of behavioral flexibility that may help animals adapt to changes in the environment. This ability is particularly important for endangered species such as the Asian elephant, which is facing significant anthropogenic change through habitat destruction and fragmentation. In a wild population of elephants living in the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand, we aimed to investigate individual variation in elephant innovation using a multi-access puzzle box with three solutions. From camera trap video footage, we measured innovation as the number of different doors elephants opened and assessed other behavioral traits such as their initial neophilia towards the puzzle box, the diversity of actions they used to interact with the box, and how persistent they were in retrieving rewards. We will present preliminary results assessing the relationship between traits and innovation for some of the 50+ elephants we have observed interacting with the box. In the future, we plan to apply our research in the development of human-elephant conflict mitigation strategies that account for individual differences in elephant behavior and cognition.