It’s true: elephants have an excellent memory. Scientists consider elephants to be among the most intelligent species – alongside humans, dolphins, and apes.
Elephant matriarchs can keep track of the whereabouts of the entire herd – sometimes as many as thirty elephants.
The matriarch is usually the eldest, and is a fountain of knowledge, remembering dangerous vs. safe areas, even if those areas are not seen in years. She remembers weather calamities, and if drought strikes an area years later, she will take her herd to where she found water the last time.
Elephants also remember each other. At the Elephant Sanctuary, where retired zoo and circus animals live, staff were astonished to witness an animated elephant reunion. After researching the elephants’ background, staff discovered the two elephants had worked together briefly 23 years prior.
Elephants need a good good memory to survive…they are a long lived species that need enormous amounts of food and water. They need to know where to find it in a rather unforgiving climate. They also are a social species that depend on each other. Forming close relationships means the elephants retain awareness about their companions’ emotions. They know what makes their friends happy or ticks them off. They grieve together over loss, and celebrate being reunited. Elephants are also self aware – like the other smartest species, they recognize themselves in a mirror.