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Elephant Talk

Elephant Talk

There are a few animals in this world that can communicate in a dialect of sorts. One of them is the African Elephant. Now we all know that an elephant trumpets when annoyed or stressed but what a lot of people don’t realise is that elephants can communicate with each other on a more personal level. Although their dialect is not as advanced as ours, different sounds do mean different things.

What really fascinates me is the fact that a lot of what elephants have to say to each other, we cannot actually hear. You see, the human ear is only able to hear sounds from a low decibel of 20 MHz, which is quite a deep bass type sound. Because of the sheer size of an elephant, its vocal chords are large and slow. This means they are only able to move or vibrate at a very low resonance, making their communication at a decibel we are unable to hear!

Scientists have measured the communication of elephants, concluding that they communicate between a range of 12MHz to 24MHz. Not only do these slow, powerful sound waves go deeper than what a human can hear, but the largeness of the sound waves carries further too, enabling elephants to communicate with each other up to 2 kilometres apart.

An easier, fun way to explain this to kids is to lay out the garden hose, pick up the one end and give it a short sharp flick. You will notice that the wave created by the quick movement only travels down the hose a short distance. This can be assimilated to a human’s high pitch voice. Now take the hose and do a slower, larger movement,  causing the wave to travel further down the hose. This is like an elephant’s voice – big, slow and smooth.

– Brett Hoy


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