By Jennifer Barclay
Elephants are much like humans. They are known for their enormous size, their big ears, their long trunks and their memory. Dolphins, apes and humans (not necessarily in that order) are known to be among some of the smartest animals. Elephants can be added to that list. Elephants are exceedingly intelligent, have incredible memory, and grieve in much the same way as humans.
It is said time and again that a person has a memory like an elephant, giving credence to that particular statement. The fact is that an elephant relies on its memory for survival. Elephants are believed to be able to recognize and can keep track of the locations of as many as 30 companions at a time. There was a study of three herds of elephants during a severe drought in 1993 at Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park, which found that not only did the elephants recognize one another but also recalled routes to alternate food and water sources. This is not only impressive but necessary to survive.
The stages of an elephant’s life are much like that of a human’s: baby, adolescent and adult. The female elephant, known as a cow, is the leader of the elephant family. The male elephant, the bull, can be considered a player in terms of his role in the heard. His job is to increase the elephant population in his area.
Elephants are noble beings in their selfless concern for the welfare of others. Their selflessness is not only directed at other elephants but extends to other species they encounter in distress, including the humans that they have so much in common with.
According to researchers, elephants communicated in a complicated sign language. They can show loving care to their calves with a gentle caress, have a sense of humor and show their anger with aggression.
Another way that elephants are much like humans is shown with their emotions. They feel and show happiness, sadness, anger and frustration. They are very compassionate animals. They tend to each other’s wounds, gather round one another when they are grieving, they cry, they mourn and they even try to bury their dead.
A good question might be why do so many humans maim and kill a species that they have so much in common with. Gabon, a West African country, which holds most of the forest animals that remain in their refuge at Minkebe National Park and the surrounding safety, was once the home to approximately 28,500 elephants in 2004. A loss of over 20,000 or more elephants was recorded in 2012 when the number had reached a low count of 7,000.
People are shooting, poisoning and spearing these amazing animals so rapidly across Africa that some scientists already consider them “ecologically extinct”, with less than 500,000 African elephants in the wilds of Africa, and only 32,000 of Asian species. Since it has been established that elephants are human like in their intelligence and their emotional capacity, they are probably fully aware of the horrible things that are occurring to their species. That cognizance must be utterly heartbreaking for them.