Tuesday, March 11, 2014


A new study of African elephants shows that...
duhn, duhn, daaaahhhhh! 
Elephants can really think!

Scientists in Kenya recorded different people speaking the same sentence.  Men from the Massaii tribe, the Kamba tribe, and women and young boys from both tribes were all asked to repeat this phrase:

"Look, look over there, a group of elephants is coming."

Scientists played the recordings, one at a time, to groups of African elephants living in the Amboseli National Park.  Then the scientists recorded the elephants' reactions to the recordings--and the results proved African elephants really can tell the difference between human speech.

First, you need to know what scientists know:

Massaii men herd cattle and often fight with elephants over land and drinking water for their cows.  Kamba men are farmers and don't really ever have problems with elephants.  The women and children are not a threat to the elephants because they do not take care of cattle or fight with the enormous pachyderms. 

Now, see if you can figure out the results:

When the elephant herds listened to the Massaii men, they gathered closer together, sniffed the air carefully and moved slowly away from the sound.  When the scientists played the recordings of the Kamba men reciting the same phrase, the elephants didn't react at all.  The elephants had no reaction to the recordings of women and children speaking either.'s what the scientists said:

The elephants didn't react at all when scientists played recordings of Kamba men and  women and children, which shows the elephants can tell the difference between the languages of the Kamba and the languages of the Massaii.  It also shows the elephants know the Massaii men could be a threat but women and children are not dangerous.

The elephants were alert and moved away, but didn't run away when they heard the recording of the Maasai men so scientists believe the elephants are able to do more than just recognize the difference in the languages.  Conservation biologist, Keith Lindsay, believes the elephants understand that if the Massaii men are talking, they are not hunting because hunters would be very quiet.  Since the elephants know they are not in immediate danger, they are not in a hurry to escape when they hear the Massaii men.  Instead of trying to escape, the elephants become more aware and just slowly move away. 

Can you believe it?  African elephants are smarter than we ever thought! 

Would you like to read more about African elephants?  Check out the Café article by David Brown called, "The Elephants of One Continent and Two Different Worlds".  The article talks about the difference between African and Asian Elephants and has some really cool tidbits about both of these amazing animals!  Check it out by clicking here! 


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