We know that elephants are an intelligent species, wise in emotional wellness and mental cognition. Recently we received a question regarding language and how much they can understand Scott when he speaks to them in the videos we share. Let’s dive in and explore for today’s EleFACT!
We’ve actually written about an aspect of this topic before, examining a study done where elephants seemed to physically differentiate and respond between two different types of voices – simply put, voices of friends or foes. Studies have also shown that elephants have the ability to imitate sounds that they hear. There are cases of Asian elephants mimicking overheard sounds of African elephants or even vehicles that are passing by. Elephants can seemingly distinguish between the low frequency sounds of different herds. Wild elephants who travel with individual family units are able to understand the difference in the family calls.
We know that the recall and memory abilities of elephants are impressive due to their large hippocampus’ and cerebral cortex. In theory, the size of these neurological structures could certainly aid in an animal’s ability to understand language. When the sanctuary elephants are trained to participate in activities like foot care, it can certainly be said that their memories play a part in the success of raising or placing their feet where they need to go based on verbal and physical cues.
Like in human communication, elephants and human understanding of one another is not just limited to the words we use. Body language, tone, intention, and context are necessary for successful transmission of information. The same applies to animals of all species: even the pets that you have in your own home can certainly tell the difference between a kind and gentle tone compared to a harsh, more serious one. Communication is something that may never be totally explainable in the elephant community, but we definitely know that both their emotional and linguistic understanding is far greater than we may see.
Photo of Lady and her lovely ears