Can Elephants Smell Cancer?

ABC News
Beyond The Headline
Can Elephants Smell Cancer?

Dr. Seuss’ Horton, Disney’s Dumbo and the always loveable Babar are just three reasons many people love elephants. While the characters are all different, one thing remains the same: their long trunks.

An elephant’s trunk is comprised of tens of thousands of muscles, making it extremely versatile. The trunk is used for breathing, smelling, touching, grasping and making sounds. The elephant trunk is truly one of the most amazing body parts in the animal kingdom.

An elephant can smell roughly 28,000 times better than humans. This is why Sean Hensman is training elephants to use their keen sense of smell for other tasks. One of those tasks is to identify TNT, which could be used to locate land mines. Another study of Hensman’s looks into how an elephant could detect illness in humans, including cancer.

The purpose of these studies is for South African locals to like these animals more, understand their benefit and to better protect them. “If local communities who have these animals in their backyard see a value to them, then hopefully they will want them around for future generations as oppose to just destroying them because they’re eating their crops,” says Hensman.