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Trunk call: How elephants communicate using a 'secret language'


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Trunk call: How elephants communicate using a 'secret language'




By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 3:56 PM on 22nd February 2010




Elephants are known for their loud trumpeting calls, but new research has revealed they also communicate using a secret language which humans cannot hear.

Researchers at San Diego Zoo have been monitoring the conversations between a herd of African elephants at the wild animal park.


They discovered that when they make a low rumbling growl, most of the call is inaudible because it is too low for us to detect.



The newest baby elephant at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park earlier this month. He is part of the African elephant herd whose language is being decoded by researchers


The team, led by Dr Matt Anderson, decided to analyse these calls in an attempt to unravel what the animals were saying to each other.


Eight of the gentle giants were given a special £1,500 leather collar with a chin microphone, GPS tracking system and recording device.

They recorded the elephant's vocalisations for a 24-hour period each week for 10 weeks. This was then combined with observations of the elephants and GPS data to put the sounds in context.

The data revealed the female elephants were communicating using a 'secret language.'



Several calf births have increased the San Diegno elephant herd's size to 13. Researchers found the animals communicate on a low frequency immediately before a birth


Pregnant elephants were using this low frequency communication to tell the rest of the herd when they were about to give birth. This would warn the other elephants to look out for predators that could harm the newborn calf in the days leading up to the birth.


Dr Anderson, who is the director of behavioural biology at the park, said: 'We thought elephants had a certain vocabulary, but we are finding it is much larger than anyone realised.'


He added that the information could help researchers create a more stress-free environment for elephants being bred in captivity.

The team plan to build up a catalogue of elephant sounds as part of the research.

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