How elephants are able to recongize themselves in mirrors. 

Are elephants self-aware?

When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see? You might notice that your hair is out of place. Maybe, you have a new scratch from your cat. Whatever you see in your mirror, you are capable of making a connection that the reflection on the mirror is yourself and not another human being. Being capable of recognizing yourself is a trait that can only be done by very few animals.

What’s self-awareness? 

Having self-awareness means being aware of yourself. For humans, it means that we’re able to identify that our identity makes us unique. 

For animals, having self-awareness is a sign of being intelligent. Not every animal in the wild has this capability. Scientists have discovered that only ten animals have self-awareness and these include: 

  1. Humans

  2. Chimpanzees

  3. Gorillas

  4. Orangutans 

  5. Bottlenose dolphins 

  6. Orcas

  7. Bonobos 

  8. Rhesus Macaques 

  9. Magpies 

  10. And, of course, elephants!

How are animals tested for self-awareness?

Testing for self-awareness in animals is a little more tricky than with humans. As humans, we can identify that we have conscious knowledge of any sort of feelings, desires and character. This ability also allows us to experience conscious emotions like shame or pride.

For animals, there is no capability of measuring their emotions or knowing what they are thinking. Researchers then rely on observing signs that could indicate they are self-aware. One way that scientists can measure this is through the mirror test. 

Elephants Intelligence and Self-awareness

The elephant intelligence can leave you shocked about all the things they are capable of doing. Not only are they capable of distinguishing between languages and remembering things, but they are self-aware! 

Researchers discovered that elephants could recognize themselves in mirrors. A study was conducted back in 2006 in the Bronx Zoo, where a large mirror was placed where three Asian elephants lived. The mirror was left to observe the behavior of the elephants. 

After observing, the researchers discovered that elephants did not greet the reflection like how they greet other elephants. They would first start touching the mirror and looking back to get a sense of what they were looking at. 

Next, the elephants would start to repeat movements like waving their trunks and moving their heads. After this step, the elephants understood that they were looking at themselves. They then proceeded to examine themselves by opening their mouths or investigating their bodies. 

The final test that scientists did was place a mark on the body of the elephants. The researchers put a mark where it would require a mirror to see. The elephant was able to see that there was a spot on their body from using the mirror and touched it. They passed the test of self-awareness! 

The elephant intelligence is incredible as their contribution to the ecosystem. The bad news is that elephants are at risk of becoming extinct due to loss of habitat and poaching. You can do your part in saving elephants by making a small donation to our research or shopping for our apparel. 

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