Saturday, 17 January 2015

Elephant No. 106: Elephants Never Forget

African forest elephant
Photo: Pal Teravagimov
Source: redOrbit

A couple of days ago, my friend Lucie Lamoureux sent me a link to a wonderful animated short by Alex Gendler and Avi Ofer.

It's only about five minutes long, but packs a lot of great information into those five minutes. Some of the information it contains actually seems to have been come from my original Elephant a Day blog, which is kind of cool.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Since the title of the short is Why Elephants Never Forget, today's elephant lore features a couple of memory-related stories from my original blog.

In the late nineteenth century, Toby the elephant was a popular attraction at Moore Park in Sydney, Australia. Toby could do a wide range of tricks, including removing her keeper's hat when asked, and ringing a handbell held in her trunk. Toby, like all elephants, also had a very good memory.

During a voyage along Australia's coast, a deckhand fed Toby an orange loaded with hot peppers. It was a cruel thing to do, given the sensitivity of an elephant's trunk and mouth. On a much later voyage, the same deckhand happened to be passing by, when Toby grabbed him with her trunk. She tried to dump him overboard, but he landed in the rigging and was saved.

Pangal the elephant showed a similar ability to remember an affront to his dignity. In the early nineteenth century, Pangal worked as an army pack elephant in India. Pangal was a remarkably clever elephant, and had decided that he was willing to carry only a certain amount of weight. If he was given a heavier load, he would simply pull off the excess and throw it on the ground. Pangal was by no means unwilling to carry things; he just had a clear idea of what was fair.

One day, the army quartermaster lost his temper at Pangal. He threw a tent peg at the elephant's head, yelled at him, then stormed off.

A few days later, as Pangal was walking from the camp to a waterhole, he happened to pass the quartermaster. Seizing the man in his trunk, Pangal placed him high in a tamarind tree overhanging the road. Pangal then calmly walked away, leaving the quartermaster clinging to the branches until rescued by members of his brigade.

Forest Elephant
Photo: Patricia Rosengrave
Source: University of Canterbury, Christchurch

To Support Elephant Welfare


  1. TED talk videos are always interesting.

    How many "in the flesh" elephants have you seen? I don't think I have seen even one.

  2. I lived in Africa when I was young, so I saw them there. We once went to a game preserve in Cameroon, and were nearly stampeded by a herd. For a kid, that seemed very fun, although the adults in the landrover were less than impressed, lol! I've also seen them on travels in Asia, but I've never been to an elephant preserve or anything. My parents once took me to a circus that had elephants, and I think I visited them at the Toronto Zoo when I was a teenager, but only the African ones I saw as a child have really stuck in my memory.