Young Roi was just 10 months old when she arrived at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage. She had been spotted in the Olare Orok Conservancy in the Maasai Mara, scared and confused beside her dead mother, killed by ivory-seeking poachers. Roi was still with the rest of the herd, but the milk-dependent little calf would likely not survive with the group if she could not get enough milk. She was rescued by the Sheldrick team. A year later, Roi has adjusted well to her new life with other orphans at the sanctuary, and may one day return to the wilderness. But there is little doubt that she will remember that awful day for a very long time.
Elephants are intelligent, and share many of the same emotions and cognitive behavior as humans. They grieve for lost loved ones. They feel fear, joy and empathy. And, they remember!
Elephants’ memory is key to their survival. They recognize more than 200 different individuals, necessary when females depend on one another to help raise their young. Like our human family, elephants form complex bounds in their society. When two elephants meet they emit a “contact appeal.” If they recognize each other’s appeal, they respond and approach. If, however, they do not, they become agitated and defensive. We do not yet know just how long elephants can retain memories, but it has been shown that a recording of a dead animal can attract the attention of its relatives and even its descendants.
Memory has its downside, however, such as when a matriarch leads her family to a place where once good feeding grounds have been taken over by humans for crop cultivation or other uses. When it comes to human-elephant conflicts, elephants most always lose.
But there are people working to save these gentle and intelligent creatures such as the team at Sheldrick elephant orphanage. We are proud to support the orphanage by fostering elephants in honor of our guests. An after-hours visit to this sanctuary to meet some of the rescued residents is included in many of our custom Kenya journeys.
Please take a moment to watch this touching new video from Sheldrick. And remember… ivory = iworry.
Visit iworry.org to learn more.