EleFact Friday: The Persistence of Memory

It’s EleFACT Friday, and you may remember that we’ve touched on the amazing elephant memory a few times before. Recent reports show that the memory of an elephant may be more important than we previously believed – and it may help them survive. 

African elephants have demonstrated that not only can they recall smells, sounds, and even the sights of different predators (human and animal alike), they are known to be able to retrace their steps to find water sources. We know that their herd structure, paired with their memory, allows them to be able to distinguish between family members, even when surrounded by hundreds of other elephants in the wild. 

Biologists have also seen that their impressive memories are imperative to navigating a “fission-fusion” dynamic. A practice that is common among primates and some whale species, a core family unit of elephants will come into contact with hundreds of other elephants over the course of the year (fusion), only to later break off into the same core, family group (fission). This ability to remember takes incredible brain power, and although it may sound like a simple concept for us as humans, the ability to identify strangers and act more cautiously around them is a necessary and remarkable skill for an elephant. 

We often get questions about whether or not the sanctuary elephants know and remember the individuals they interact with here at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil. This is a portion of the reason why we do not allow visitors; each elephant can most certainly detect a stranger which may pose the risk of disrupting the peace and healing that they find within the sanctuary. That is all part of the restorative elements inherent to the concept of sanctuary as we view it here at ESB.

Photo of Lady


  1. REPLY
    Melinda says

    I believe that elephants are among the most brilliant of all species on earth, possibly surpassing humans.

  2. REPLY
    Heather Parsons says

    Perhaps they receive ‘vibes’ or ‘gut instinct’, as some really atuned humans can about people. Is it also possible that they have photographic memories, which allows them to remember contours or magnetic fields in the landscape?

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      The possibilities are numerous.

  3. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Wow, never ending amazement with these beautiful elephants! Always impressed at how much they teach humans now we just need to listen to them! Thank you for another very interesting education moment with ESB 👏

  4. REPLY
    Sheila says

    Yes. In deed the saying I’ve known all my life….*memory like an elephant* holds true majorly. Elephants are GODS UNIQUE CREATURES AND THEYHAVE BEEN PROVEN TO BE VERY SMART IN SO MANY WAYS.

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