Thinking Like an Elephant in Thailand

Wildlife & Ecosystems

Thinking Like an Elephant in Thailand

Work with elephants, researchers, and local residents to learn and teach others about elephant behavior.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

The project research team is currently conducting studies on elephant memory, cooperation, problem-solving, and reasoning.

Work with elephants to better understand and document their behavior and unique form of intelligence.

Elephants are endangered throughout their range. Thailand is home to only about 1,500 captive and 2,000 wild elephants. Elephants are widely regarded as one of the most intelligent animal species on Earth, but little evidence exists to support this. Most of what we know about elephants comes from field research in Africa, but little has been done experimentally to test how elephants think about their environment and about each other.

The more we learn about elephants, the more we can educate the public about the need to protect them. Studying elephant behavior also helps scientists to better understand the evolution of intelligence in nonprimates and to develop methods to mitigate conflict between humans and elephants—particularly as it relates to the encroachment of wild elephants on private land—that take into account the intelligence of elephants in the wild.

Asian elephant

Findings can help people learn how to share land with elephants more harmoniously.

At the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), a Thai nonprofit organization based in Chiang Rai, Dr. Plotnik is investigating elephant cognitive complexity by conducting experiments on memory, problem-solving, and cooperation.

About the research area

Chiang Rai, Thailand, Asia

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:

The Scientists


Newton Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge

ABOUT Joshua Plotnik

Earthwatch scientist Dr. Joshua Plotnik is head of elephant research at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Thailand and the founder of Think Elephants International.



Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


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