It’s a common saying that elephants never forget. It is their memory which makes them incredibly intelligent and one of the most social and creative animals on Earth. Unlike many proverbs, the one about the elephant memory happens to be scientifically accurate.
Elephants know every member in their herd. They are able to recognise as many as 30 companions by sight or smell. This is a great help when migrating or encountering other potentially hostile elephants. They also remember and distinguish particular cues that signal danger and can recall important locations long after their last visit.
But, it’s the memories unrelated to survival that are the most fascinating. Elephants not only remember their herd companions but their creatures who have made a strong impression on them.
In one case, two circus elephants that had briefly performed together rejoiced when crossing paths 23 years later (reported by Nat Geo).
Their recognition isn’t limited to others of their species. Elephants also recognise humans with whom they bond well. The elephant boasts the largest brain of any mammal which is remarkably similar to the human brain. Unfortunately, it is also a reason why elephants just like humans suffer from ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’.
Elephants also tackle problems cooperatively and in creative ways (even by manipulating their partners at times). The combination of good memory and problem solving, can explain why elephants are so clever. So the next time someone says you have a memory like an elephant, take it as a compliment.