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The amazing abilities of an elephant’s brain

My name is Catie, and I am the newest member of the Elephant Team here at Zoo Atlanta. One of the most common questions I am asked about the elephants at Zoo Atlanta is, “How long does it take for them to trust you?” One of my main focuses is building a positive relationship with the elephants. This can be accomplished in many different ways; however, food is one definite way to these elephants’ hearts. Giving them foods they especially enjoy, such as watermelon, bananas or apples, creates a positive memory of me in their minds. Elephants are considered some of the most intelligent mammals in the animal kingdom because of their brains, which are highly similar to human brains. As you know, the old saying goes, “an elephant never forgets.” Both of these elephants know over 60 different behaviors, many of which they have known since they were very young elephants in the 1980s.

An elephant’s brain is highly complex, just like a human’s or a dolphin’s. This just means that the brain has a lots of bumps and folds, which increases the surface area of the brain and makes it more intricate. The most complex parts of the elephant’s brain is the olfactory lobe, the cerebellum and the temporal lobe of the cerebrum. The complexity of the olfactory lobe contributes to the highly developed sense of smell of their trunks. The trunk’s diverse ability is also due, in part, to their advanced cerebellum, which is in control of the elephant’s muscle movements. The temporal lobe is typically responsible for speech and communication in mammals. Their advanced temporal lobe is probably how elephants are able to communicate through infrasounds, or sounds that are inaudible to the human ear.

Elephants are highly intelligent animals. However, the human race is not currently treating these animals as such. Elephants are being killed in large numbers daily, especially for ivory, but many other factors as well. Because of this, it is projected that elephants could be extinct in the wild within the next 10 years. You can help us make sure this doesn’t happen! Visit 96 Elephants (the Zoo is a partner of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s 96 Elephants campaign), supporting Zoo Atlanta to help us continue to do the great work we do for elephants and many other species in the wild, and learning more about Kelly and Tara during your next visit!
Catie Aubuchon
Keeper I, Mammals

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl