By Reginald Stanislaus
The African elephant has a very smart brain which weighs not less than five kilogrammes. Scientists say among the long list of mammals who dwell in the vast tropical savannah of Africa, the structure of an elephant’s brain is unique and can be compared to the human brain.
Powered by this brain, elephants communicate using various signs and movements of their tails, ears, legs and their flexible trunks.
These complex signs allow them to discuss, agree or disagree on issues and may unify or cause problems and sometimes forcing conservative members to quit a herd.
Scientists say the trouble makers don’t stay away for a long time as after learning their lessons they return to the herd which always welcomes them back.
Members with good intentions will joyfully rumble and erect their trunks high to welcome back a sister or brother who regrets their foolish pride.
These welcoming rituals are always preceded by an identification parade which is done by sniffing out a unique substance from the temporal gland.
These ceremonies are accomplished by the shaking and tossing of their tusks. Scientists say elephants produce ten different sounds known as laryngeal calls which include rumbles, yells and roars.
Elephants emit various sounds but the trumpet is their identity echo which comes from the larynx and modified by the trunk when the largest land animal is threatened or exited.
Scientists say a distressed elephant may produce a trumpet sound to seek assistance from its relatives but those who are courageous enough to defend themselves and will stand firmly and roar.
By doing so, sound plays an important role in fights. Most roars are finished with infrasound or low frequency sound which human ears are not able to pick.
During the estrous period female elephants send chemical messages to males encouraging them to come closer and mount her, but when young inexperienced or weak contenders approach her she will automatically chase them off by producing an infrasound which is picked up by a bull browsing six to ten kilometres away.
Scientists say these special calls are produced from the larynx as they travel in low frequency of 15 to 35 hertz and may last between 10 to 15 seconds.
With a short estrous period of 16 days among elephants, if the desired male doesn’t respond to these calls surprisingly, experienced females will join their unfortunate sister in these sexual appealing songs until the right bull arrives.
At the birth of a new calf, the herd will congregate near the new member and welcome it with loud rumbles. The new born elephant pleads for milk from its mother by roaring to her in a special way.
To be sure that its message is understood clearly, the baby elephant will raise its trunk forcing its mother so that it may suckle.
When the mother does not respond to these calls the baby 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 herds consist of females such as sisters, aunts and cousins, all these will respond to the cry of a hungry juvenile.
The female members will surround the baby elephant and use their trunks to caress its body until it stops wailing. Elephants may shake their heads and flap their large ears as well as throw dust or branches and leaves.
When a superior member is excited it 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 that 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 the waves 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 behaviour”.