Have you forgotten the password to an online account? Or where you last put your house keys? Perhaps you would have remembered if you had the memory of an elephant.
But elephants have more than just excellent memories. They are truly intelligent animals who are one of the world’s most communal, clever and compassionate creatures.
True to the proverb, “An elephant never forgets”, they recognise each and every member of their herd, which can consist of about 30 individuals, simply by seeing or smelling them.
This helps them stick together when migrating, or keep their distance from hostile and unknown elephants.
They memorise signs that suggest danger, such as imminent droughts or floods, and recognise places they have not visited in a long while.
You don’t even have to be a member of their herd to leave a long-lasting impression on elephants.
In one studied incident, a pair of elephants that had briefly performed together in a circus recognised each other 23 years later and were elated to be reunited.
Members of other species, including humans, are remembered by elephants, even after not seeing each other for decades.
Biologically, it is little surprise just how smart elephants are, given that they have brains even larger than humans.
Despite not being closely related at all, elephants and humans have similar brains, in terms of development and structure.
The part of the brain called the hippocampus is what allows elephants to memorise.
Elephant herds that are led by elder individuals are likely to thrive better, as older elephants are more experienced with life and death in the wilderness.
However, this enhanced memory also means that elephants, like humans, are susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition in particular is common among elephants who have lost loved ones to poachers or undergone similarly distressing events.
The elephant brain also has a cerebral cortex which helps in problem-solving.
Elephants have been observed tackling problems in groups, and even deliberately fooling about with researchers. They have also been found to be capable of doing basic maths, correctly counting the number of fruits in baskets after several redistributions.
As though elephants need to astound you further, they are also mentally active creatures who interact with each other in ways researchers are slowly understanding.
Elephants use a variety of means to communicate, including body signs, audible sounds and infrasound that travels great distances.
Researchers also believe that elephants have a form of language and grammar.
For example, when elephants greet each other, they always issue a specific call, that likely means “Hello”.
Artistic tendencies have also been observed among elephants, and like human artists, they choose colours of their liking and even have their own artistic styles.
In terms of music, elephants can recognise musical notes and replay tunes.
But it’s not just their intelligence that astounds researchers, but their emotional consciousness, with evidence of compassion, humanity and a sense of right and wrong.
They hold the title of being the only non-human animal to have funerals for their deceased, and they even return to grave sites to pay their respects on occasion.
Their empathy extends beyond their own species, helping and even saving other animals and humans, with nothing to gain for themselves.
At the same time, elephants have also been observed to have vengeful tendencies, attacking human settlements after their herd suffers injuries or deaths due to human activity.
While you may take your reflection in the mirror for granted, it should be noted that few animals can recognise themselves in a mirror, but an elephant can do just that.
So, if elephants are sentient, smart and sensitive creatures, it really makes the fact that they are hunted down mercilessly solely for monetary gain even worse.
As they continue to be killed, deprived of their homes and mistreated, one must wonder how humane humanity really is.
With their numbers dwindling, it falls onto people to ensure that the next trumpet of the elephant will not be the last.