EleFact Friday: Listening Can Save Lives

For today’s EleFACT Friday, we want to share more scientific exploration that exhibits how truly intelligent elephants are. In a study from 2014, researchers at Amboseli National Park in Kenya played recorded voices of individuals from two different language groups:  one whose members  occasionally threatened and preyed upon elephants, and another group who were less of a danger to the elephants. The recordings contained the same phrase in two different languages: “Look over there. A group of elephants is coming.”

By about a two-to-one margin, the elephants reacted defensively, retreating and gathering in a bunch, when they heard the voices and sounds associated with the more threatening group. The experiment was repeated, comparing their reactions and behaviors to the men versus the women of that threatening group. The elephants reacted less defensively to the women’s voices, perhaps because women incite violence against them less frequently.

This study backs up what we already know about elephants: their ability to understand human behavior and language goes far beyond what we may know. Their ability to to recognize and respond to human sounds in the wild speaks to both their mental and emotional intelligence, and their ability to recognize predators and assess the level of threat that they may pose is a crucial cognitive skill that could certainly protect them in the wild.

The study is can be found in much greater detail here:

Bambi, perhaps listening for Mara


  1. REPLY
    Carol says


  2. REPLY
    Rachel says

    Incredible – but not surprising. Too many humans don’t give the animal kingdom the respect it deserves. Thanks for the post.

  3. REPLY
    Suzanne M Eaton says

    Elephants are amazing souls. Bambi looks so beautiful. I can’t help but remember her cowering behind the cement walls in her enclosure before she was rescued and traveled to sanctuary Brazil. What a difference
    love and kindness makes. Thank you, thank you, thank you for rescuing and loving all our girls at sanctuary and
    all those in the future.

  4. REPLY
    Terry says

    I just listened to an NPR discussion about an elephant named Happy who has been in the Bronx zoo in N.Y since 1977. It’s over legalities- is Happy considered an “animal” or a ” person”. So much of these findings could be offered to the legal counsel on behalf of Happy and her release from captivity. Everyone here knows it’s a ” no brainer regarding the intelligence and empathy along with the cooperation and love elephants possess. I hope there is a way to get these studies out to the court in New York and everywhere!!! Thank you!

  5. REPLY
    Sherry says

    Yes, love and kindness for all; animals and humans too!! The world would be a better place to live!! Imagine just
    like John Lennon said!

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