Fact or Fiction?: Elephants Never Forget. Do Elephants Really Have Steel-Trap Memories?

Tue, 2009-01-13 13:49 by Jan

Elephants do not have the greatest eyesight in the animal kingdom, but they never forget a face. Carol Buckley at The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., for instance, reports that in 1999 resident elephant Jenny became anxious and could hardly be contained when introduced to newcomer Shirley, an Asian elephant.

As the animals checked one another out with their trunks, Shirley, too, became animated and the two seemingly old friends had what appeared to be an emotional reunion. "There was this euphoria," sanctuary founder Buckley says. "Shirley started bellowing, and then Jenny did, too. Both trunks were checking out each other's scars. I've never experienced anything that intense without it being aggression."

Turns out the two elephants had briefly crossed paths years earlier. Buckley knew that Jenny had performed with the traveling Carson & Barnes Circus, before coming to the sanctuary in 1999, but she knew little about Shirley's background. She did a little digging, only to discover that Shirley had been in the circus with Jenny for a few months—23 years earlier.

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