In the animal kingdom, elephants do not have the best vision, but their memory is superb. For example, Carol Buckley of Hornwald Elephant Reserve in Tennessee said that in 1991 Jenny, the elephant in the reserve, saw a new Asian elephant Sherry, who was very nervous and restless.
After the two elephants greeted each other with their noses, Shirley became lively. They are as excited as old friends when they meet again. “They’re so happy,” said Barkley, the creator of the reserve. Shirley began to roar, and Jenny followed. The two elephants looked at each other’s scars on their trunks. I’ve never seen such a tension without aggression.”
It turned out that the two elephants had a brief intersection many years ago. Buckley knew that Jenny had followed the Carlson & Barnes Circus around before she came to the reserve in 1999, but she didn’t know Sherry’s background. She did some research and found that Shirley had been with Jenny for several months at the circus, but that was 23 years ago.
Researchers believe that amazing memory plays a huge role in elephant survival. According to the study of elephant herds in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, the social knowledge memory of female leaders in elephant herds is particularly indispensable to elephant families.
Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK found that when confronted with a strange elephant, the elephant herd led by a 55-year-old female leader (who lived between 50 and 60 years) showed a defensive posture compared with that led by a 35-year-old female leader. Karen McComb, a psychologist and animal behaviorist in Sussex, and her colleagues published in Science because they knew that such a strange elephant might conflict with elephants and injure young ones.
Researchers also observed three groups of elephants during the severe drought in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, in 1993. They found that elephants could not only recognize their companions, but also remember the roads to spare food and water when their habitat dried up.
Scientists at the New York Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reported in the Journal of Biology that elephants led by 38-45-year-old female chiefs left arid parks to find water and food, while younger 33-year-old female chiefs chose to stay in parks.
Sixteen of the 81 baby elephants born in the park died nine months later. Compared with the previous 2% mortality rate, the 20% mortality rate is much higher. Ten of the young elephants were from the elephant group in the park where water and food were scarce.
Researchers concluded that older elephants remembered the drought in the park from 1958 to 1961, when ethnic groups migrated to distant rich areas to escape. The other elephants left behind had no memory of the drought.
In 2007, psychologist Richard Burn of the University of St Andrews in Scotland and other researchers studied in Andrews and found that elephants apparently recognized up to 30 elephants and were able to master their movements at the same time.
“Imagine your family going to the department store during the Christmas promotion and knowing how hard it is to find out where four or five family members are,” Bowen said. And elephants need to pay attention to 30 peers.
Scientists did a memory test by placing urine samples in front of the mother elephant and letting it sniff, and responded when it met the urine owner who was not part of its population. “Most social animals, such as deer, may not recognize other members of the population at all. But elephants can recognize almost every elephant in the population. Bowen said.
Bowen also said that such “super memory” far outweighs other animals and helps elephants monitor family migration, foraging and communication.
Dianne Reese, a WCS cognitive scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, and colleagues say elephants can be as famous as dolphins, apes and humans when it comes to smart animals. In a 2006 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they mentioned that elephants and several other mammals are the few who can know what is in the mirror.
Zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton is the founder of Save the Elephant in Nairobi, Kenya. He began to study elephants in the 1960s and is now an authority on elephant research. He detailed the story of an elephant he met in Tanzania’s Lake Manyala National Park in his early years, and he could even walk side by side with it in the wild. In 1969, in order to complete his thesis, he left the area and did not return until four years later. When he returned, he felt as if he had never left. “The elephant came straight to me and treated me as before. They wandered together without time to get acquainted again.
“Elephants live a long life,” Douglas-Hamilton said. Memory is good for long-lived animals and makes them more adaptable to the environment. If elephants experience extreme climatic conditions, they can remember where they have food, so they can survive.
So the next time someone says that your memory is like an elephant, take it as a compliment.