Committee Chair

Foerder, Preston G.

Committee Member

Ozbek, Irene N.; Warren, Amye R.


Dept. of Psychology


College of Arts and Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


African elephants (Loxodonta africana) distinguish between familiar and non-familiar conspecifics through olfaction and human ethnic groups through vision and olfaction. We investigated whether elephants recognize individual familiar humans and elephants through vision and olfaction in two captive African elephants. After training, visual recognition was tested over three sessions with three keepers holding a photo array with two photos. Using similar methodology, olfactory recognition was assessed using a t-shirt worn by an individual as the sample above the photo array. Visual recognition of familiar elephants was assessed matching a photo of one side of a familiar elephant to a photo array of two photos of the other side of elephants. Throughout the study, recognition was determined if the elephant touched the correct photo significantly above chance. Results indicate one of the elephants may be able to recognize familiar keepers through visual and olfactory cues due to significant performance above chance in multiple sessions.


Thank you to my advisor, Preston Foerder, and my committee members, Amye Warren and Nicky Ozbek, without whose guidance, ideas, and support this research would never have been possible. Also, thank you to Zoo Knoxville for allowing us the time and opportunity to work with their African elephants; specifically, Sheela Hira, Petty Grieve, and the rest of the elephant barn staff (Rebecca, Jess, Sam, Rachel, and Amber). Bruce Schulte for aiding in creating this researching from the beginning. Kristi Biolsi and Gordon Burghardt for their contributions to the methodological procedures. The undergraduate students of Dr. Burghardt’s lab (Sydney Dean, Alexis Davis, and Jenny Stirnemann) as well as K. C. Bagley for helping with data collection. Danielle Hawkins for not only helping with data collection but also coding videos. Finally, thank you to our funding source the UTC Wheeler Center for Odor Research Grant.


M. S.; A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science.




African elephant -- Behavior



Document Type

Masters theses


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