The elephant's memory is legendary, but in a large, grey surprise to science the mighty Asian elephant turns out to have a distinct flair for maths as well
Under carefully controlled experimental conditions — essentially comprising a large cage and two buckets of assorted fruit — one elephant at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo managed to get its sums right 87 per cent of the time. A slightly less gifted pachyderm across the country in Kyoto scored a still respectable 69 per cent.
The curiously accurate adding skills of Elephas maximus have been discovered by Naoko Irie, a behavioural ecologist at the University of Tokyo putting the finishing touches to her doctoral thesis. In her tests, three apples were dropped into one bucket and five into a second one next to it. Two more apples were added to each bucket, leaving the first with five and the second with seven apples.