Koran Elephant Apparently Shows Vocal Mimicry

I was at a conference recently where elephant language expert Joyce Poole showed this video – the voice you can hear in the background is not the trainer, it is (supposed to be) the elephant itself. If it’s true it represents a massive change in the way we look at the animal, moving it into the category of animals that we consider capable of vocal imitation (albeit after being heavily encultured). Joyce was just as amazed and skeptical as most people are at the video, and St Andrews have dispatched a Korean speaking researcher to go and check the story out.

After the talk I was much more prepared to consider that the video might be genuine. The picture painted of Elephant vocal communication was a fascinating one. Elephants were shown to be complicated social creatures who used vocal communication to express a wide range of emotions and intentions. Joyce and her team have slowly been collecting data on these vocalisations and have begun to map specific sounds to specific meanings, although as yet few have been conclusively proven using playback studies. There’s a nice summary of her Savannah Elephant Vocalisation Project here.

Big brained, complex, social and vocally communicative. Elephants seem to be emerging as a fascinating new piece in the puzzle that is the evolution of communication.

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3 Responses to “Koran Elephant Apparently Shows Vocal Mimicry”


  1. 1 Andrew Reed October 8, 2007 at 12:38 am

    asa visitor of my planet i am glad to see you can iterpret on voice for another,, and i am glad to say that now i am feelin gbetter,., of course thye gort my message,., but peoples voices dont do their job that good, so why would an animal mimic something that when it sees you knows why you cna reme,ber the words,. that you link with objects, it is all haveing to do wiht the shape of your body,., but i guess animals, dont tknow that people are made to do everythign><“”: huh


  1. 1 A World of Blog Feeds » Koran Elephant Apparently Shows Vocal Mimicry Trackback on September 22, 2007 at 12:01 pm
  2. 2 Elephants Painting? « Language Evolution Trackback on April 20, 2008 at 10:20 am

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