African elephants recognise human voices

  • 11 March 2014

Researchers reckon just by hearing a voice, African elephants can tell men from women, adults from kids and even tell the difference between our languages.

Researchers in Kenya's Amboseli National Park used a camouflaged loud speaker to play the same phrase in different voices and languages.

They found the elephants were more frightened and moved away from the sound of adult males, who are more likely to be hunters, rather than women or children.

Detecting different dialects

They could also tell the difference between the dialects of different tribes.

They reacted when they heard the language of the Masai cattle rearing tribe, who they compete with for land, food and water, but remained still for the Kamba tribe - crop farmers they don't come into conflict with.

So these gentle giants may be known for their memory, but it turns out they're pretty good listeners too.