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New study finds that elephants call each other by name

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Elephants have long captivated us with their sheer size, intelligence, and complex social structures. These majestic creatures with their remarkable memory, emotional depth, and problem-solving abilities have now been found to be even more fascinating.

Recent findings, published last month in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, have brought us one step closer to understanding, and potentially protecting, these beautiful creatures, with research now suggesting that elephants call each other by name, using unique low frequency rumbles through their mouths and trunks.

In fact, behavioural ecologist, Dr Michael Pardo, of Cornell University in the United States says that elephants have the ability to individually call specific members of their family with a unique call.

The research, conducted across Amboseli National Park, Buffalo Springs National Park and the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya, used machine-learning algorithms to identify and record 470 distinct calls from 101 animals which were then played back to selected animals using loudspeakers. When specific calls were played to a “friend” or family member the animals responded more “energetically” than to calls addressed to other animals.

This “name”-like calling likely enhances lifelong social bonds among elephants.

Renowned author and journalist Mike Cadman has written an article on the Seolo Africa blog summarising this ground breaking finding and offering insights on elephant behaviour.

Says Jann Kingsley, Founder and Director of Seolo Africa: “We always knew that elephants had a high level of intelligence but it’s mind blowing to think they actually have names for each other and conduct individualised conversations. Sightings of elephant are always a highlight for our guests at Seolo lodges and this ground breaking new discovery adds to the fascination for these magnificent animals.”

A rumble in the jungle, or African bush, now might just have a whole new meaning, and will remain the subject of many studies to come. Interested in reading more about this research? Click here.


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