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Elephants can tell men’s voices from women’s

By Tim Sandle     Mar 13, 2014 in Environment
New research suggests that elephants may pick up on differences between the voices of men and women, and even between the speech sounds of two African ethnic groups.
This finding is the result of tests conducted in Amboseli National Park in Kenya. For the study, recordings of male voices were shown to prompt a defensive behavior among family groups of elephants. In contrast, women's voices did not produce the same reaction, according to the L.A. Times.
In a second study, the scientists used voice recordings of Maasai men, who on occasion kill elephants in confrontations over grazing for cattle, and Kamba men, who are less of a threat to the elephants.
On hearing the more "threatening" voices, the elephants tended to edge closer together and change their travel direction. The researchers concluded that elephants can pick up very subtle vocal cues to pick out which were the most dangerous situations. This could be an genetic trait allowing elephants to take action when faced with a really versatile predator.
Commenting on the findings, Joyce Poole, an elephant expert with Elephant Voices in Masai Mara, Kenya, told National Geographic that results add to "our growing knowledge of the discriminatory abilities of the elephant mind, and how elephants make decisions and see their world."
The research was carried out by Karen McComb of the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, and her colleagues. The research is titled "Elephants can determine ethnicity, gender, and age from acoustic cues in human voices."
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