Sunday, 21 February 2010

Elephants can distinguish between three human languages

Elephants are surprisingly clever. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Elephants roaming the savannahs in the Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya may be able to distinguish between three languages. This is the take-home message of a recent British study. BBC reports on tests conducted by a research team from the University of Sussex, UK, who drove around the park on the outskirts of Mount Kilimanjaro in a Land Rover, observing elephant behaviour.

The British researchers discovered that old female elephants were able ”to learn the identity of at least 100 other individual elephants by voice”.

The researchers also played recordings in three different languages (Maa, Kamba and English) on a loudspeaker atop their Land Rover. They noticed clear differences in how the elephants reacted to these languages. When the elephants heard someone speaking Maa, the language of the Maasai, they became nervous probably because the Maasai occasionally kill elephants in order to protect their herds. Then, when they heard the Kampa language, they were less nervous. On hearing English, the elephants stayed calm.

The elephants obviously know that English-speaking tourists only take photos. They seem to realise that the era of Ernest Hemingway and other rifle-toting white hunters is past and gone.

BBC also mentioned experiments conducted in Japan that suggest that elephants are good at mathematics.

According to Darwinists, chimpanzees should be much more intelligent than other land animals or birds. However, several recent experiments suggest that both elephants and crows beat chimps in tasks needing innovation.

These and other observations do not support assumptions based on Darwinian evolution.

At least some elephants are clever painters as well. See a video clip of an Asian elephant painting the portrait of – yes, a fellow elephant:


Luck-Baker. Andrew. 2010. Inside the Elephant mind. BBC News (17 February)