There are three types of elephants in the wildlife—the Asian, the African Savannah, and the African forest. During the 20th century, their numbers started depleting due to the drastic effect of the ivory trade.
The elephants have been in the wildlife for 15 million years and counting but because of illegal poaching it’s heartbreaking that this specie face numerous environmental threats and habitat decay.
The elephant leaves people in awe mainly because of its large size. But another unique characteristic that the elephant has is its ability to remember. In fact, its memory plays a big role on its survival.
The saying “an elephant never forgets” is a popular expression that suggests that elephants have exceptional and long-lasting memories.
While it’s a saying and not a scientific fact, there is some truth to it. Elephants are known for their remarkable cognitive abilities and strong memories, which play a significant role in their social lives and survival in the wild.
Elephants can remember the locations of water sources, the best foraging grounds, and the migratory paths of their herds over great distances.
They can also recognize individual elephants and even humans they have interacted with in the past, often forming long-lasting bonds with other elephants and people.
Here’s a story that might just prove the popular phrase ‘an elephant never forgets’ :
In 2006, an elephant named Loijuk was rescued by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust at 5 months old in Kenya. When she was old enough, she was set free.
But even after how many years later, Loijuk still made it to a point to visit the grounds of her old sanctuary, and in September, she even brought a special someone with her — a newborn elephant calf.
A newborn elephant is typically called a “calf.” Just like many other mammals, including domestic cattle, the term “calf” is used to refer to the baby of the species.
Calves are usually cared for by their mothers and the rest of the elephant herd, as they are highly social animals known for their strong family bonds.
“Loijuk has stayed close to the area around the unit, allowing our keepers to watch over her and check how she’s getting on,” Brandford said.
“Considering September is the peak of the dry season in Tsavo, not the most favorable of conditions for a new baby, we are delighted that Loijuk has returned close to home so that we can help supplement her diet when she visits.”
As an elephant mom, Loijuk was very proud to introduce her newborn to her human family. The baby calf was only a few hours old, and she made sure to to bring her to the ones who took care of her when she was young herself.
Loijuk was even open to making the head keeper of Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Benjamin Kyalo, interact freely with Lili, the newborn calf.
“Benjamin was able to get close to Lili (who nestled into his legs), stroke her delicate newborn skin and breathe into her trunk, thereby letting her know who he was via his scent,” Rob Brandford, executive director of SWT, told The Dodo.
“Elephants have an incredible memory and sense of smell and our keepers will often breathe into the orphans’ trunks so they can recognize who they are.”
In the elephant norm, the female relatives of the calf helps in sustaining its life. Lojuk herself has played the role of a mother to calves that are not directly hers. Now that she has one that she can call her own, her female relatives also do their part in helping her raise Lili.
“Moments like these are momentous,” Brandford said. “In saving one orphaned elephant’s life, we are not only seeing that orphan thrive but start a family.”
“Lili has a brighter future ahead of her than many elephants,” Brandford added, “and we look forward to watching this little girl grow up in the wild.”
Research has shown that elephants have a highly developed hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory and spatial awareness. Their memory and cognitive abilities are thought to be important for their survival, especially in regions with variable food and water resources.
While “an elephant never forgets” might be a bit of an exaggeration, it’s clear that elephants do possess impressive memory capabilities.
Lili serves as a gentle hope for the decaying number of the elephant population. She is the 31st femaled orphan by Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
You can watch a video of Loijuk and Lili’s touching visit here:
Story source h/t : The Dodo