Stephen Blake, on the memories of elephants

Today, Stephen Blake answers a question from Sara of the Alpha-Omega British School in Spain.

Sara: Do elephants have good memories?

The answer comes from elephant ecologist Stephen Blake, at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. He works to conserve habitat for elephants in Central Africa.

Stephen Blake:
Elephants do have fantastic memories. If you imagine an elephant that lives in a tropical rainforest, one of the most complicated systems on Earth, that elephant has to know where fruit trees are, where good forage is. It may need to know where those things are over an area of a thousand square miles.

Blake said that elephants also need a good memory for their social lives.

Stephen Blake: Just like you know your schoolteachers, you know your parents, your brothers and sisters, you know your friends. You might know 200 people. Well, an elephant might know 500 or 1000 elephants. It’s got to remember every single one of those to get along well with its friends. So yes, elephants have fabulous memories, and this is one of the things that makes them so special.

An elephant’s brain can weigh up to 5 kilograms – larger than any other land animal. It helps store that amazing memory.

Our thanks to the Monsanto Fund, bridging the gap between people and their resources.

Our thanks to:
Stephen Blake
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

May 17, 2009

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