We’ve all heard the saying, “An elephant never forgets.” But is there any validity to this old saying? Do elephants really have great memories? Find out if this is a truth (or tail) below!
Elephants are the largest land mammals on earth and have quite the memory to go along with their massive size. While the old saying may be exaggerated, it's more true than not.
An elephant’s memory is key to its survival and, sometimes, its herd’s. Herds have a matriarchal structure with one older female in charge. These dominant females have developed a bank of knowledge over their years that helps their herd survive in the wild. An example of this is evident in desert-adapted elephants. A matriarch will remember where the reliable source of water is and lead the herd to it. Time and distance don’t impact their ability to lead their herd to the right place, demonstrating their superb memory when it comes to their spatial environment.
Evidence of their great memories is also seen in social behaviors. When confronted with an elephant that they do not know, matriarchs will assume defensive positions towards them because they realize that these animals could pose a threat. When they come across an elephant that they have interacted with before, even if it was many years ago, they become very animated and excited to be reunited.
Elephants use their 10.5 pound brains to encode necessary identification and survival information to keep their herd safe in the wild. Stop by the Zoo soon to visit the African Elephant Crossing exhibit. Then, return awhile later and see if our elephants remember you!