HOLLY'S SKETCHES OF THE ELEPHANTS
JEFF BOLLING, HOLLY, AND SUZI PEARSON POSE WITH TARA
I hope you have enjoyed the two previous elephant posts and photos. In 1998, eight years after my latest post, my daughter, Holly, did her school science experiment based on the question, "Do Elephants Really Never Forget?"
It took a while and a little work, but Zoo Atlanta agreed to help Holly do her science experiment by brushing peanut butter on one tusking post (a large wooden slab) and roasted peanut oil (which smelled the same as peanut butter) on another tusking post. The peanut butter was always on the same post. The question was, will the elephants remember where the food was as opposed to where only the good smell was? Then Holly was allowed to observe twice weekly, and take notes and photos.
The first time the posts were coated with the aromatic substances, the elephants were outside. As soon as they were brought into the barn, they began sniffing and searching for the delicious-smelling surprise. They visited the oiled post, snuffling and searching with their surprisingly adept trunk tips. Then they approached the tusking post with the peanut butter.
KEEPER SUZI PEARSON PUTS PEANUT BUTTER ON TUSKING POST
YUMMY PEANUT BUTTER!
As they quickly ran their trunks up the post, they began picking tiny bits of peanut better off and putting it into their mouths. It was only a matter of seconds before all three elephants were gathered around the post hurriedly grabbing any peanut butter they could find, each trying to get her share (or more!).
The second time and all the times thereafter, the elephants rushed past the oiled post and converged on the post with bits of peanut butter. They definitely remembered!
We both enjoyed watching the elephants during this experiment. They had distinct personalities and were still young enough to be mischievous (they were about 15 years old). One day as we observed their behavior, one girl approached the big nylon garbage can used to hold their water. She put her trunk into the can and drank a little water. Then she grasped the top edge of the can and slowly and carefully laid it down on its side. Standing stock still, she watched the water flow out of the can and across the floor. After a few contemplative moments, she quickly jerked her head up, peered sharply around the barn, lifted the can upright, and hurried away to another part of the barn. Holly and I burst into laughter at the sheepishness of her retreat.
Another day, as the elephants excitedly rushed to the tusking post containing peanut butter, they began shoving each other. It was a little scary, watching such big animals struggling, and I hoped our peanut butter wouldn't be the cause of a fight or injuries. A female keeper, looking tiny compared to the elephants, poked her head through the door into the barn, saying, "Hey! Hey! Hey!" The girls immediately stopped pushing and quietly searched for their treat.
Soon I hope to visit Zoo Atlanta and get some photos with the elephants. Holly plans to go with me and we can judge how much they have grown, since she's about the same size as she was at 13. I wonder whether the girls will remember Holly? Is it true that "elephants never forget?"