‘Five Korean words’
The study’s lead author Dr Angela Stoeger, from the University of Vienna in Austria, said she first came across Koshik after videos of the elephant, who belongs to Everland Zoo in South Korea, were posted on YouTube. After making contact with the zoo, she went to South Korea to record the animal so she could study its unusual vocal talent. Dr Stoeger and her colleagues found that Koshik’s calls correlated to five Korean words: “annyeong” (hello); “anja” (sit down); “aniya” (no); “nuwo” (lie down) and “choah” (good).
Usually, elephants produce much deeper sounds, sometimes of such a low frequency that they are outside the range of human hearing, and these calls can boom many miles away. While Koshik was capable of producing these more typical elephant noises, he needed the help of his trunk to morph these into something far more human. The researchers said this was behaviour they had not seen before.
“He always puts his trunk tip into his mouth and then modulates the oral chamber,” explained Dr Stoeger. ”We don’t have X-rays, so we don’t really know what is going on inside his mouth, but he’s invented a new way way of sound production to match his vocalisations with his human companions.”
She added: “If you consider the huge size of the elephant and the long vocal tract and other anatomic difference – for example he has a trunk instead of lips… and a huge larynx – and he is really matching the voice pitch of his trainers, this is really remarkable.”
But while Koshik sounds convincing, the researchers do not believe that he has any comprehension of the words that he is saying. Instead, they think that the elephant took up talking as a way to bond with his human companions.
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Source: BBC News
Image: Daily Mail