Archive for the ‘Facts’ Category


elephants never forget

April 15, 2010

I have my first post request! Some friends of mine asked me to write a post about the phrase “elephants never forget”. I’ve been wanting to discuss elephant phrases  like “elephants never forget”, “the elephant in the room”, “white elephant”, and “pink elephant” and the origins of these phrases in this blog, so I am glad I got this request. Thanks Dave and Sarah :)

“Elephants Never Forget” Is this true? What are the origins of the phrase?

“Elephants never forget” is related to the phrase “a memory like an elephant”. There is not much information on when people began using these two phrases, but both are referring to the very impressive memories elephants are known to have. For many years, the proof of amazing elephant memories were based on people’s observations. Humans saw that elephant swould always follow the same paths during migration. Additionally, humans that have had relationships with an elephant report the elephant recognizing and remembering them after long absences. Or if an elephant had a bad experience with a human it will remember and become angry if it sees the human again later in life.

Now there are studies to provide evidence for the strength of an elephant’s memory. One study, published in the New Scientist, can be read here. It discusses how elephants can suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Elephants will experience a stressful event at an early age but when they grow older something will trigger the memory of the stress they experienced years ago. This is usually when the elephant lashes out and then we see reports in the news about a zookeeper being killed by an elephant. This is also why some people have begun to use the phrase “elephants never forget and never forgive”.

shirt design from

An elephant’s memory is the key to its survival and this is why it has to be so powerful. Elephants use their memory to keep out strangers from their clan. If an unknown approaches an elephant clan, they will all stand together until the matriarch decides if the unknown person, animal or thing is a threat to the clan. Elephants also recognize members of their group by remembering urine smells. Elephants can remember urine smells of up to 30 of their relatives. This “talent” allows elephants to keep track of other members of their herd. More information about this interesting survival technique can  be found in here in Royal Society Publishing, Biology Letters.

Some people believe that elephants’ memories are what have allowed to be some of the longest living animals. Elephants are known for their longevity. They can live as long as humans. The oldest recorded elephant lived to be 86 years old.

Lastly, elephants are known to be one of the smartest elephants after dolphins and primates like chimpanzees. Since intelligence and memory are linked, their intelligence is probably a product of their strong memories.

Elephants’ great memories is actually one of my favorite aspects of these animals. I admire people with exceptionally good memories because my memory seems to fail me a lot. It is really hard for me to remember details of my childhood and things that happened to me a long time ago. Sometime I kind of feel incomplete because of that. Also, I cannot remember movies that I watch after a few months have passed. I will not remember anything that happened in the movie. When I watch the movie again I will slowly begin to recall, but I was never one who you could easily discuss a favorite movie with. And I’m definitely not someone who quotes famous movie lines.

There are two aspects of my memory who kind of resemble an elephant’s memory. I  can remember a face. I may not know where I’ve seen you or any details surrounding our meeting but I will remember that I’ve met you. You know sometimes when you meet someone and the next time you see them they don’t remember you? So they introduce themselves like you’ve never met before. I’m that awkward girl who will tell you that I’ve met you before and embarrass you. I can’t help it! It is kind of insulting when you meet someone but they don’t remember you!

Second, I can remember a conversation. I HATE when people tell me the same thing over and over again. “We just had this conversation yesterday. Why are you telling em this again?” I don’t make it awkward though. I usually just let them tell me again….

In conclusion, elephants have extraordinary memories and that’s why we say “elephants never forget”.


elephant history: hanno

March 12, 2010

Think about getting an elephant as a gift… interesting gift right? I mean I would love to have an elephant but I dont expect to find an elephant with a bow on it, sitting on my front porch on my 23rd birthday. Although dreams do come true so you never know…

Anyway, Hanno, the white elephant, was a gift. King Manuel I of Portugal gave Pope Leo X the Asian elephant on the the Pope’s coronation. So I guess King Manuel thought to himself what would my good friend the Pope like as a gift and then he had an epiphany…an elephant!!! a white one! Most likely Hanno was albino. Albino elephants can be white or pink. (Interesting fact, i know)

Well, it turns out Pope Leo X loved Hanno dearly. Hanno became the Pope’s favorite pet and he spent tons of quality time with Hanno. Hanno often participated in processions as well.

The sad thing is Hanno died at the age of 6. Hanno lived from 1510 to June 8th 1516. It is said that Hanno had a bad case of constipation, and they tried to treat it. However, the treatment ended up killing the young elephant. Pope Leo X, a good master and friend, was at Hanno’s side at the time of his death. Hanno was buried in the Cortile del Belvedere, and the Pope wrote Hanno’s epitaph. It read:

Under this great hill I lie buried

Mighty elephant which the King Manuel
Having conquered the Orient
Sent as captive to Pope Leo X.
At which the Roman people marvelled, —
A beast not seen for a long time,
And in my brutish breast they perceived human feelings.
Fate envied me my residence in the blessed Latium
And had not the patience to let me serve my master a full three years.
But I wish, oh gods, that the time which Nature would have assigned to me,
and Destiny stole away,
You will add to the life of the great Leo.

He lived seven years
He died of angina
He measured twelve palms in height.
Giovanni Battista Branconio dell’Aquila
Privy chamberlain to the pope
And provost of the custody of the elephant,
Has erected this in 1516, the 8th of June,
In the fourth year of the pontificate of Leo X.

That which Nature has stolen away
Raphael of Urbino with his art has restored.

To learn more about Hanno, read The Pope’s Elephant by Silvio A. Bedini

sketch of Hanno



March 8, 2010

The first known male elephant twins were born on Saturday, March 6th in Surin, Thailand to Phang Thong Khun, a 35 year old Asian elephant! How exciting!!! Elephant twins are extremely rare. The only other known set of elephant twins are female and they were born in Thailand 15 years ago.

I want twin boys when I have kids. Therefore, I am jealous of Phang Thong Khun. Congratulations Phang! They are darling! :)


encyclopedia entry: elephant

March 3, 2010

Remember the fifth grade when we had to write those little one page reports? One page handwritten seemed so long back then… But remember when everyone used to rush to the encyclopedia’s because you had to use at least one source. No one cared about books; everyone wanted to use an encyclopedia. So if you had a word that started with a popular letter like S you would have to wait until the annoying boy who got to the encyclopedia first got done, use one of the older, uncool encyclopedias, or look for a book to help you write your report. This doesn’t really have to do with elephants but I do have a point…

Today I was browsing the online Encyclopedia Britannica and decided to look up elephants and include it in a post. Because after all we should start from the beginning… The Encyclopedia Britannica describes elephants as the

largest living land animal, characterized by its long trunk (elongated upper lip and nose), columnar legs, and huge head with temporal glands and wide, flat ears. Elephants are grayish to brown in colour, and their body hair is sparse and coarse. They are found most often in savannas, grasslands, and forests but occupy a wide range of habitats, including deserts, swamps, and highlands in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Asia.

More elephant info:

Only three species of elephants are still alive today. They are the African Bush Elephant, the African Forest Elephant, and the Asian/Indian Elephant. The Asian elephant population is much smaller than the African elephant population. African and Asian elephants have different physical characteristics. African elephants are larger in size and have bigger ears than their Asian counterparts. Both types of elephants have tusks but female Asian elephants do not have tusks. Both male and female African elephants have tusks. The African elephant has a concave shaped back while the Asian elephant has convex or straight back. There are many differences betwwen African and Asian elephants, so I won’t list them all here. These are just a few of the most prominent differences.

Asian elephant vs. African elephant

For more information, visit the Wikipedia article on elephants. Wikipedia has made paper encyclopedias obsolete. Fifth graders have it so easy these days…