Coming Spring 2011 from Lerner Books!
Everyone has heard a bull elephant trumpeting, in a Tarzan movie or at the zoo. When we think about elephant communication, we think about that call. But elephant communication is much more complex and much more interesting that what we can hear with our human ears. Did you know that elephants also communicate through low-frequency rumbles we can’t hear? Or that they read vibrations in the ground through pads on their specially adapted feet? Or that they send signals to rivals and mates using chemical signals and body language?
Over the last twenty years scientists have found that complex social groups of long-lived, large brained animals often show a high degree of intelligence and use sophisticated forms of communication. Scientists had long known this was true of primates and whales, but they are now beginning to realize just how smart elephants are. Using high-tech listening devices developed by the military during the Viet Nam War, scientists are learning just how much elephants have to say. Researchers are studying elephants to try and tease apart their communication repertoire. They are discovering just how rich and varied elephant “talk” is—within a herd, between distant populations, and between elephants and other species… including us.
Elephants have been associated with humans for 4000 years, gracing our temples, working in our forests, attending our weddings, entertaining us in circuses, even leading the charge into battle. But now the elephants are issuing a distress call. They are on the brink, in ever-closer conflict with humans over land, hunted for their ivory. Can we learn to listen to the elephant in time to save them?