Elephants might have their own language, one that's communicated through a series of ultra low-frequency rumbles. A new study called the Elephant Listening Project (ELP) is attempting to decode Dumbo by analyzing over 300,000 hours of audio captured from infrasonic (super sensitive) microphones hidden in trees in the forests of Africa.
The rumbles are one of the team's most interesting discoveries. While they happen at a frequency almost too low for humans to hear, the noises can be heard for several miles. Mothers will sometimes use a rumble to tell their children to stop playing (pshh, typical mom), or to greet old friends they haven't seen in a while. When it comes to elephants, females are traditionally the chatty ones, while male elephants often just standby and watch.
There are currently only around 100,000 forest elephants in existence, down from five times that in 1993. The animals are decreasing rapidly in number due primarily to poaching. Ivory can go for close to $1,300 a pound on the black market, which means lots of people are after it -- and the elephants are understandably wary of humans. ELP recordings are created six months at a time, and are done in the rainforest without any human presence. While primarily audio, researchers have also placed a number of infrared cameras around to record behavior. One set caught a "celebration" of sorts between all the females after two elephants mated, the first time anything like it had been captured on film. The hope is that ultimately the entire system can be used as an alarm system of sorts for poachers, and help give the species a chance for a few more post-coital celebrations.
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