Elephants may remember the smell of a relative’s dung for 12 years

African elephants in captivity reacted to the smell of relatives they had not seen for years by flapping their ears and making rumbling sounds


24 February 2023

Two elephants embracing with their trunks through the bars of an enclosure

Two elephants reunited at Zoo Halle after a long separation

Dennis Müller

The memory of elephants is the stuff of lore, and now it seems they can recall the smell of a relative even after a decade apart.

When Franziska Hörner at the University of Wuppertal in Germany and her colleagues heard about planned reunions between two mother-daughter pairs at zoos in Germany, they took advantage of the chance to test the elephants’ memories. One pair had been separated for two years, while the other had spent 12 years apart.

Hörner collected …

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