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How elephants talk among themselves

SOME years ago because of poaching and other illegal activities inside and around national parks, to see and photography an elephant in some national parks in the country became a challenge to tourists, this happened because these largest land dwelling animals became very much afraid of humans, some tour guide said to sport an elephant in Mikumi, Ruaha and Udzungwa mountain national park some time one had to deep into the forest of these national parks.

That happened as international organizations such as International Union for Conservation of Nature to say the population of these beautiful animals was its lowest level since independence, on its side the government embarked on special strategies to protects elephants, rhinos and other animals and now the results of these efforts have given out positive results we receive reports of these animals reclaiming some of their lost territories in different parts of Dodoma, Morogoro, Iringa and Njombe regions.

The enormous size of African Elephants comes from a very smart brain which weighs not less than five kilograms. Scientist say among the long list of mammals who dwell in the vast tropical savannah of Africa, the structure of elephant’s brain has a unique complexity which is compared with that of human brain.

Powered by this kind of brain, elephants are able to communicate with different signs through different movements of their tails, ears, legs and the flexible trunk on the head. These are complex signs which help them to discuss, agree or disagree on different issues which may unify or cause problems and force some conservative members to go out of the group.

Scientists say because of customs and long friendship, these trouble makers don’t stay away for a long time because after learning their lesson they normally return to the natal group which always welcomes them back.

Members with good intention will always blow joyful rumbles and erect their trunk high in the sky to welcome back their sister and brothers who may be sorry for themselves because of foolish pride and prejudice.

These welcoming rituals are always preceded by identification parade which is done chemically by sniffing unique substance with odor from the temporal gland, but to rebuild unity in the group these ceremonies are accomplished by shaking and tossing of their tusks.

Scientists say elephants or Loxodonta africana is able to produce ten different sounds known as laryngeal calls which include rumbles, yells and roars. Elephants produce and emit different sound but trumpet is their identity echo which come from the larynx and modified by the trunk when the largest land animal is threatened or exited.

Scientists say during aggression, a distressed elephant may produce a trumpet sound to seek assistance from its relatives but those who are courageous to defend themselves will stand firmly and roar.

By doing this, sound plays an important role in expressing fighting ability of the aggressed Elephant against its aggressor but most of these roars are finished with infrasound or low frequency sound which human ears are not able to peak.

During estrous period female send chemical messages to all neighboring males to come closer and mount her, but when young inexperienced or week contenders approaches her she will automatically chase them while producing infrasound which is able be picked by a bull browsing six to ten kilometers away.

Scientists say these special calls are produced from a particular source in the larynx as they travel in low frequency of 15 to 35 hertz and may last between 10 to 15 seconds.

With knowledge of a short estrous period consisting of sixteen days among elephants, if the desired male doesn’t respond to these calls surprisingly experienced females will join their sister in these sexual appealing songs until the right bull arrive.

After giving birth, the whole group will congregate near a new member and welcome by blowing huge rumble but the relation between a baby elephant and its mother who provide protection and guardianship to the new born who walk on her side plead for milk by producing special roar to her provider.

To be sure that its message is understood clearly, the baby elephant will produce this kind of sound while raising the trunk to force her mother to stop for milking. When the mother fail to respond to these calls the baby may will change the call into a soft roar which may force the whole group to stop and pay attention to its appeal.

Most of the time elephant groups consist of female members such as sister, aunties and cousins, all these will respond to the cry from a hungry juvenile. The whole group will surround the baby elephant and use their trunks to caress its body and comfort the largest baby on land until its pleased and allow its relatives to continue with their activities.

Elephants are also known to different signs to pass and respond to different message, they may shake their heads and snapping their large ears as well as throwing dust or branches and leaves from different vegetations. When a superior member is excited will raise its trunk while its subjects may respond by lowering their heads, flattening their ears against their necks and erect their ears in V shape figure.

Recently it has been discovered elephants are able to communicate by using Seismic sound whereby acoustical waves are produced and sent through the ground and picked by legs which send them to the brain through shoulder bones.

These signals are detected through inner ear but to get a clear message the recipient elephant has to lean forward and put more weight on their larger front feet; this is also known as the “freezing behavior”.


THE month of September 2020 is on its ...

Author: Reginald Stanislaus Matillya

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