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Only a few animals have so far demonstrated their ability to recognize themselves upon seeing their reflection in a mirror. In this list come the elephants, great apes, magpies and dolphins. This capability of self-recognition is believed to be connected to empathy and perspective taking.

A new study has found that Asian elephants are capable of recognizing their bodies as hindrances to success in problem-solving. This has further strengthened the evidence of self-awareness and intelligence in these animals.

For testing their body awareness, the researchers tied a stick to a rubber mat using a rope. The elephants had to walk to the mat, pick the stick up, and hand it to an experimenter standing in their front. This was to analyze whether they understood that their bodies were hindering their success in the task. Often (42 times out of 48) during the test, the elephants stepped off the mat to hand the stick to the experimenter.

This means that elephants have self-understanding coupled with self recognition, which is a very rare trait in the animal-kingdom. This study helps us understand elephant behavior, which has significant implications for the development of elephant/human conflict mitigation strategies.