Elephants Warn when Humans are Near

Elephants Warn when Humans are Near

Elephant Background

Photo from 1,000,000 Pictures

We recently posted a blog about the increase in poaching by terrorist groups.  These groups sell the ivory obtained on the black market to fund their terrorist activities.

Researchers from Oxford University recently discovered that elephants emit a distinct low rumbling sound when humans approach and believe that it may be a warning single to other elephants that “humans” are nearby. In 2010, researchers discovered elephants also have a distinctive “bee alarm rumble”, which, when played, causes the animals to flee while shaking their heads. The researchers believe that the head shaking is likely an attempt to kill the insects.


The fact that elephants appear to have two different rumble sounds for bees and for humans have led to them to think that may have a more sophisticated verbal communication than previously realized.

“The acoustic analysis [of the rumbles] showed that the difference between the ‘bee alarm rumble’ and the ‘human alarm rumble’ is the same as a vowel-change in human language, which can change the meaning of words (think of ‘boo’ and ‘bee’),” Dr. King explained to the Oxford blog. “Elephants use similar vowel-like changes in their rumbles to differentiate the type of threat they experience, and so give specific warnings to other elephants who can decipher the sounds.”

Accordingly to a recent report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, as many as 20% of Africa’s elephants could be killed in the next 10 years if illegal poaching continues at the current rate.  25,000 elephants were poached in 2011 and 22,000 in 2012.

Leave a comment