Whenever I’ve taken my daughters to a zoo, they want to see the elephants. We always gaze up in wonder at these huge creatures. Don’t you?

Well, your wonder will turn to awe after viewing this fantastic TED Ed lesson, which provides a greater appreciation for these majestic animals and the capacity of their minds.

A study of the elephant brain shows some surprising similarities to humans. For example, elephants have a highly developed hippocampus, which (among other things) connects emotions to memory formation.

Researchers have found that elephants recognize up to 30 members of their herd. They also can remember specific locations, like watering holes, years afterward. Even more amazing are their long-terms memories unrelated to survival. Two elephants who had performed in a circus clearly remembered each other when they met again – 20 years later. There are cases where elephants remember people they were once close to, after being separated for decades!

Elephants also – like people — have a complex cerebral cortex, allowing them to creatively solve problems. And, as the video explains, elephants have many other abilities we’re just beginning to appreciate and understand – including language, the creation of art and even music.

Most remarkable of all is the way elephants exhibit qualities such as empathy and justice. Other than humans, they are the only animals who bury and mourn their dead, even revisiting their graves.

This makes the destruction of elephant habitats and the killing of elephants for their ivory tusks all the more tragic.

This TED Ed lesson’s Dig Deeper section is particularly strong. Here are some highlights:

As stated, the very survival of elephants is threatened. Go to National Geographic’s article Ivory Wars. Learn how you can help elephants survive at this How to Help link.

As the TED Ed author states: “Knowledge is power. Now you know the story. Let your voice be heard.”

I couldn’t agree more!

In case you’ve missed any, be sure to check out all of the other TED Ed lessons we’ve featured on LearningLiftoff.com!


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