Do elephants really never forget?

Elephants are famous for their long-spanning memory and high levels of intelligence. 

17th May 2017
Do elephants really never forget? (Getty)

Asked by: Theo Hunter (Aged 11), Sheffield

An elephant has a very large brain for its size and the ‘temporal lobe’ region responsible for memory is more developed with a greater number of folds – this results in powerful abilities to ‘download’ important survival data such as where to find food and water, and who is friend or foe.

The matriarch of a herd (who can live for 60 years) may recognise over 200 individual elephants and can react to the call of a deceased member of her herd two years after their death. During droughts, these grandma elephants lead family members to waterholes by recalling detailed maps they’ve made spanning hundreds of kilometres. So although they undoubtedly forget what they don’t need to remember, they appear to remember what they cannot afford to forget! 

 


Get more fascinating Q&As from BBC Focus magazine by following @sciencefocusQA