Study Reveals That Elephants Can Tell The Difference Between Human Languages

A research conducted at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK revealed that elephants can distinguish human languages, genders and ages associated with danger.

Before getting into it though, let’s make this clear: elephants don’t understand human languages, they can just distinguish one from another.

In the experiments, biologists Karen McComb and Graeme Shannon, recorded the voices of men from two Kenyan ethnic groups who were saying in their native languages, “Look, look over there, a group of elephants is coming”. The first group were the Maasai, a nomadic group, members of which have periodically killed elephants. The other group was Kamba, a group that never was a threat to the elephants. (the article continues after the ad)

When the researchers played the recordings to a sample of 47 elephants, the results were simply amazing. When the elephants heard the Maasai (the tribe that kills elephants), they were cautiously smelling the air or huddling together twice as tightly compared to when they heard the Kamba voice (the tribe that’s not a threat for elephants).

“We knew elephants could distinguish the Maasai and Kamba by their clothes and smells, but that they can also do so by their voices alone is really interesting,” says Fritz Vollrath, a zoologist at the University of Oxford, UK.

To further their their hypothesis, they also recorded the voice of young Maasai boys and women – both groups are not a threat to the elephants. Again, the findings were similar with the Kamba voice; when the recordings were played, the elephants didn’t humble together as much as they did when they heard the voice of Maasai men.

Whether these signs are based on language remains unanswered, but the findings certainly suggest that there’s much more going on in the minds of these wonderful mammals than previously expected.

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: Animals Make Different Sounds Depending On The Language You Speak 

Photos: World Atlas / GaijinPot /
Photoshop: I’m A useless Info Junkie

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