THE ELEPHANT
LISTENING PROJECT

FOREST ELEPHANT TALK

Elephants are very vocal creatures and yet humans didn't really know this until Katy Payne discovered in 1984 that much of their talk can be below the threashold of our hearing (termed INFRASOUND). At the Dzanga Bai in the Central African Republic, ELP researchers made a rough estimate that we may hear only about 40% of all the calls produced. (How did we know how many calls there were? We used an 'acoustic array'.)

Below are some examples of the many types of calls that forest elephants use to communicate with one another. Notice that sometimes you can see an elephant open its mouth to vocalize, but often it is very difficult to tell who is calling and who is listening!

elephants in alarm  

A mixture of rumbles, trumpets and yells

In this clip a sitatunga (an antelope) jumps out of a hollow tree off-camera and startles the Pia family and the Noor family. As they huddle together they rumble, trumpet, and scream. Pia is about 40 years old here and is with her fourth offspring, 2-year-old Pia V. Noor is about 38 and is with her fourth offspring, 2-year-old Noor V.

     
lost forest elephant calf  

A lost infant - where's mom?

This unknown infant appears lost! He rumbles and screams as he searches. He also smells the air and listens for something.

   

Penelope Family

 

A wayward infant is rescued

This video features the Penelope family and the Gonya family. Gonya II pushes Penny, who is only a few weeks old, and Penny's scream gets the attention of Penny's family. First a couple of Gonya's family arrive (Gonya II also has a young infant just behind her), then the Penelope's rush over and group around Penny. There are a variety of alarm calls, trumpets, and rumbling throughout the ordeal.

   
males spar briefly  

A mix of calls between two males

A young adult male advances towards Gabin, an older male (golden yellow). You will see the younger male flap his ears as he gives a soft rumble, then he runs at Gabin in challenge. The two males clash and probably it is the younger male who roars as he gets shoved away by Gabin. Then Gabin gives two rumbles, each time accompanied by flaps of his ears.