Researchers have found that there's some truth to the idea that elephants never forget. Elephants have excellent spatial memories, as evidenced by their ability to take the shortest routes to watering holes as far as 30 miles (48 km) away. But do they share information with friends and family? A recent story about injured elephants in Africa traveling miles to get help at a wildlife sanctuary demonstrates their ability to communicate and make decisions.
In 2015, Kenyan poachers shot three wild elephants with poisoned arrows, hoping to get their ivory tusks. But the elephants escaped and made their way to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) in Ithumba, where they presumably knew humans could be trusted. None of the elephants had been there before, but there was a familial connection to two orphaned female elephants who had been raised at the sanctuary.
A happy ending, this time:
- The DSWT immediately dispatched a veterinary team to clean the injured elephants' wounds, apply antibiotics, and cover the injuries with clay to facilitate healing. All three recovered.
- In a statement, the DSWT said that the elephants “knew that if they returned to the stockades they would get the help and treatment they needed because this continuously happens … they all come to Ithumba when in need, understanding that there they can be helped.”
- Africa's elephants are truly under siege. Poachers are killing them faster than they can reproduce.