By Bible Speaks
Elephants’ “Sound of Silence”
On a hot afternoon in the sprawling Amboseli National Park in Kenya, the large herd of elephants seems undisturbed by any intrusion into their habitat.
Yet, the air is full of “elephant talk,” ranging from low frequency rumblings to high frequency trumpets, roars, bellows, barks, and snorts. Some of the calls contain components that are below the level of human hearing and yet are so powerful that they can be heard by an elephant several miles away.
Experts in animal behavior continue to be puzzled by the intricate ways in which elephants convey serious messages.
Joyce Poole has spent over 20 years studying communication concepts among African elephants. She has concluded that these huge creatures, known for their coveted tusks, exhibit feelings found in very few animals. “It is hard to watch elephants’ remarkable behavior during a family or bond group greeting ceremony [or at] the birth of a new family member . . . and not imagine that they feel very strong emotions which could be best described by words such as joy, happiness, love, feelings of friendship, exuberance, amusement, pleasure, compassion, relief, and respect,” says Poole.
When getting together after being separated for long periods, their greetings turn to pandemonium, as members rush together with heads high and ears folded and flapping.
At times, an elephant will even put its trunk into another’s mouth. These greetings seem to give the elephants a deep sense of joy, as if they were saying, “Wow! It’s simply fantastic to be with you again!”
Such bonds renew the support network vital to their survival.
Elephants seem to have a sense of humor too. Poole describes watching elephants draw the corners of their mouths in what she called a smile, wagging their heads in a manner suggesting amusement.
She once initiated a game in which the animals took part, and for 15 minutes they behaved in a totally absurd manner. Two years later, some participants seemed to “smile” at her again, perhaps remembering her involvement in the game.
Not only do elephants amuse each other in play but they also mimic sounds. In a research project, Poole heard a sound that was different from the normal elephant calls. On analysis, it was suggested that the elephants were imitating the noise made by trucks passing nearby. And they were apparently doing it for fun! It is as if elephants look for any excuse to get excited.
Much has been said about the way elephants appear to mourn when calamity befalls a family member. Poole once observed a female standing guard over her stillborn baby for three days and described it this way: Her “facial expressions” seemed “similar to a grief stricken, depressed person: her head and ears hung down, the corners of her mouth were turned down.”
Those who kill elephants for ivory do not consider the ‘psychological trauma’ of the orphans who may have witnessed the killing of their mothers. These babies spend the first few days at an animal orphanage trying to overcome their “grief.” A keeper reported having heard the orphans “scream” in the morning. Repercussions can be observed several years after the death.
Poole suggests that the elephants can detect the hand of man in their suffering. We look forward to the time when man and beast will live together in peace.—Isaiah 11:6-9.
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