The Psychology of Elephants and Why It Matters for Their Conservation
The study of the elephant mind has important implications for understanding the evolution of human and non-human animal intelligence. But how can understanding the mind of elephants also potentially help us protect them from extinction? In this talk, I will discuss my own research on elephant behavior and cognition. I will highlight how this research can help us better understand the evolution of similar intelligence in evolutionarily distant species, but also how it can be applied to conservation efforts, specifically in terms of human/wildlife conflict mitigation and childhood education.
Joshua Plotnik, Ph.D. is a comparative psychologist and conservation behavior researcher who has studied the intelligence of elephants since 2005. Recently, Josh has been working in Thailand to understand how research on animal thinking can be applied directly to the mitigation of human/elephant conflict. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and the Animal Behavior and Conservation Program at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He is also the founder and executive director of Think Elephants International, a U.S. non-profit charity working to bridge the gaps between research, education, and conservation by using elephants as a conduit. His research on elephant intelligence has been published in some of science's top peer-reviewed journals, and has been featured in documentaries (including several produced by the BBC and National Geographic) and numerous TV and newspaper articles on elephants. Dr. Plotnik has earned degrees from both Emory University (M.A. and Ph.D.) and Cornell University (B.S.). He lives in New York City.