Elephant Communication

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Everything We Know About Elephant Communication Is Now Available Online In A New Catalogue

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Tuesday, 3rd August 2021

Elephants have an incredible repertoire of communication techniques, including calls and gestures that convey specific meanings, culturally learned behaviours, and maintaining social bonds through tactile sensations.

Now, renowned biologist Joyce Poole, who has been studying endangered savanna elephants for nearly 50 years, has co-founded a new tool dubbed the “Google Translate” for elephants with her husband and fellow researcher, Petter Granli, to assist scientists in keeping up with elephant behaviour.

The Elephant Ethogram is an easy-to-navigate online animal catalogue that contains all known information about elephant behaviour and communication. It currently contains over 500 behaviours represented by nearly 3,000 annotated videos, photographs, and audio files. The entries were compiled from over 100 references, with data dating back to 1907.

Approximately half of the documented behaviours were derived from the two investigators' own studies and observations, with the remainder coming from approximately seven other prominent savanna elephant research teams. Their database is open to the public, and it is intended to be a living catalogue to which other elephant researchers can add their own observations and discoveries in the coming years.

“I see it as impossible to properly show and explain the behaviour of a species without a multimedia approach, and we hope this will inspire other scientists to take a similar approach for other species,” Poole told the media outlet Scientific American. “At a time when biodiversity is declining and elephants' lives are being severely impacted by humans, we also want to make clear to the world what we stand to lose.”

Today, both Asian and African elephant species face massive threats to their survival, such as habitat loss, which leads to human-elephant conflict, and poaching for the illegal ivory trade.

“To be honest, elephants are running out of time. They're running out of room... And they require more people to care about them,” Poole explained. “[If] people can come in and see how complex these animals are, how creative they are, how versatile their behaviour is, how rich it is — we might be able to inspire more people to care.”

Elephants kept in zoos, circuses, and work environments are deprived of many of their natural behaviours, leading to the development of compulsive, repetitive behaviours such as rocking back and forth. According to Poole, the ethogram will also highlight behavioural differences between captive elephants and their wild counterparts, bolstering the case for the abolition of elephant captivity.




The News Talkie Bureau




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