Researchers required Asian elephants to walk on to a mat, pick up a stick and pass it to an experimenter in exchange for a food reward.
In control conditions the sticks were loose, but for the experiment the sticks were tied to the mat - meaning the elephant's body weight prevented them passing the stick to the researcher unless they walked off the mat.
The University of Cambridge study found that elephants stepped off the mat on average 42 out of 48 times during the experiment, compared with three out of 48 during the control.
Researchers said this shows elephants are able to recognise their bodies as obstacles to success in problem-solving.
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