How Do Elephants Communicate with Each Other

How Do Elephants Communicate with Each Other? New Study Reveals They Use Names Like Humans

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A new study conducted over four years suggests how elephants communicate with each other.

In an interesting study, scientists revealed that elephants communicate with one another using names, exactly like people.

A team of researchers from Colorado State University (CSU), Save the Elephants, and ElephantVoices led this study.

The findings showed that elephants are the only non-human animals that call out and address each other with names, much like humans.

Elephants are known for their complex social behavior, just like humans. They raise their children together, grieve, and communicate over long distances through deep vocalizations, most of which are inaudible to human hearing.

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The idea of using names felt natural, but scientific proof was key and an important step forward. Using machine learning, the researchers were able to recognize calls meant for specific elephants.

The study began with simple observations in Kenya, as per the CSU reports. Researchers discovered that when the matriarch of an elephant herd gave a specific sound, all of the elephants came to her.

However, in some cases, a similar sound would only attract one elephant. This led the experts to believe that elephants may be calling out names.

How Do Elephants Communicate with Each Other
Stock image of elephants via Pexels

To test this, they studied the calls with machine learning, which differentiated between those meant for the entire herd and those intended for a specific animal.

When the researchers played recorded calls, they found out that elephants responded to their “names.” They either called back or came to the speaker.

Calls to other elephants got fewer responses. This action shows that elephants understand and respond to individual names.

Using names in communication is known as “arbitrary communication.” This means the sound representing an idea doesn’t have to sound like the idea itself.

For example, a name can be any sound given to a person or thing. This ability shows a high level of intelligence and thought.

George Wittemyer, a CSU professor, explained that using arbitrary noises means they are using complex communication.

He believes that humans and elephants gained this skill due to the complicated societies they both live in, and this study explains how these abilities came into being.

Kurt Fristrup, another CSU scientist, also mentioned that elephants do more than only copy noises. Their calls contain unique features that identify the individual being called.

It also means that other types of labels or sounds may exist in elephant communication. The new insight might have an application in reality by reducing cases of human-animal conflict.

Elephants frequently come in touch with humans, sometimes leading to crop damage. If we knew their names, we could communicate with them by telling particular elephants to keep away, thereby, reducing conflicts. 

The study also shows the range and complexity of elephant communication. Elephants make a variety of sounds, from trumpeting to deep rumbles.

These vocalizations convey a wide range of information, including identification, age, and emotional state. Elephants can even communicate over long distances and coordinate movements with each other.

The research lasted four years and recorded 470 cries from 101 elephants in Kenya. This elaborate study gave researchers all the information required to make this path-breaking discovery.

Though we are not yet ready to have full chats with elephants, this research is a step in the right direction.

Understanding elephant communication can help their conservation programs. Elephants are at high risk due to poaching and the decline of their habitat. Learning more about how they interact will help us protect these incredible creatures.

In the future, researchers aim to know more about elephant communication, such as whether they use names for other things like food or locations.

As of now, the fact that elephants make name-like calls is amazing, indicating how intelligent and social these beautiful creatures are.

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