elephants sounds

  • Acoustic communication


    Acoustic (that is, sound) signals are omni directional (i.e. they travel in all directions) and can be broadcast to a large audience of intended and unintended listeners, including those in view and those hidden from view. Being short-lived and deliberate, acoustic signals are useful for giving information about an immediate situation, rather than about a constant state. Through reflection, refraction and absorption, acoustic signals are degraded by the environment in ways that are often very much greater for high frequency sounds than for very low frequency sounds. Elephants are specialists in the production of low frequency sound and in the use of long-distance communication. Check out some good examples on acoustic communication by elephants in article "What Elephant Calls Mean: A User's Guide" published by National Geographic in 2014, based on the work of ElephantVoices.

    The range of sounds elephants produce

    Erin vocalizes after mating with Ed. (©ElephantVoices)African elephants produce a broad range of sounds from very low frequency Rumbles to higher frequency Snorts, Barks, Roars, Cries and other idiosyncratic sounds. The most frequently used type of call is the very low frequency Rumble. You can search for, listen to and read about numerous calls and other sounds made by elephants on The Elephant Ethogram: A

  • ElephantVoices eNewsletter August 2017 - Say Hello in Elephant!

    Dear Friend of ElephantVoices,

    For the first time you can Speak Elephant with your friends. You can share your message in a pretty cool way:-).

    Together with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, we’re launching Say Hello in Elephant to raise awareness and to showcase elephant communication. Our goal is to reach far and wide - during World Elephant Day, 12th August, and beyond.

    In the press release about this campaign ElephantVoices’ Joyce Poole states: "Elephants are awe-inspiring and every moment in their company brings joy. Unlocking their rich emotive communication and gaining deeper insight into their world is fascinating. Yet, elephants and their habitats are under assault, and we urgently need to change hearts and minds.”

    Say Hello in Elephant provides a little window into the complex communication of elephants. If you want to learn more, check out our elephant calls database. We are currently working on a major expansion of all our elephant behavior databases, and look forward to show you more during the coming year.

    More than ever we need your help to inspire people to do their utmost to stop the ivory trade and to ensure a future with space for elephants. Please consider supporting the work of

  • ElephantVoices Mission

    "To inspire wonder in the intelligence, complexity and voices of elephants,
    and to secure a kinder future for them."

    Our goals are to advance the study of elephant cognition, communication and social behavior, and to promote the scientifically sound and ethical management and care of elephants. We accomplish these through research, conservation, advocacy and the sharing of knowledge.

  • Happy Thanksgiving - Watch our #BehaveMoreElephant video!

    Dear Friend of ElephantVoices,

    We have created something special for you for Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday and the upcoming festive season.youtube arrow 140w

    We asked our followers on social media what comes to mind when they think of elephants. Answers included: Self-aware, brave, gentle giants, power of the feminine, wonder, courage, forgiveness, devoted, majestic, family, compassion, wisdom, strength, loyalty, kindness, love.

    We’ve been studying elephants for over 40 years. The video linked below is inspired by our ongoing scientific documentation of elephant behavior. With everything we've learned, we can't help but think that the world would be a kinder, more peaceful place if we all behaved more like elephants.

    We feel deep gratitude to ELEPHANTS, for what they have taught us and for what they mean to us. And we are grateful to ALL OF YOU for caring about them.

    Let's all aspire to #BehaveMoreElephant!

    A donation to ElephantVoices is deeply appreciated - via our donation page it will be done in a couple of minutes. If you plan to shop from Amazon - use our AmazonSmile link and Amazon will make a donation.

    In gratitude, Joyce and Petter

    The work of ElephantVoices is dependent on your support - please include ElephantVoices in your giving.
    Donate online, or

  • How elephants communicate

    Like all highly social mammals elephants have a well-developed system of communication that makes use of all of their senses - hearing, smell, vision and touch - including an exceptional ability to detect vibrations.

    Acoustic communication takes a look at sound production and hearing in elephants; chemical communication explains how elephants use various secretions and their acute sense of smell to communicate; visual communication looks at how elephants make use of postures and displays and their sense of sight in communication; tactile communication describes how elephants make use of their sense of touch to communicate.

    At one end of the spectrum elephants communicate by rubbing their bodies against one another, at the other end they may respond by moving toward the sounds of other elephants calling, perhaps 10 kilometers away. They convey information about their physiological (e.g. sexual/hormonal, body condition, identity) and emotional state (e.g. whether they are fearful, playful, joyful, angry, excited) as well as communicating specific "statements" about their intentions or desires. In this section we look at how elephants use the different pathways of communication and the actual mechanics of communicating.

    You will in the fully searchable database The Elephant Ethogram: A Library of African Elephant Behavior find close to

  • Introduction

    The Elephant Ethogram is a uniquely detailed catalogue, or library, of the behavior and communication of African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana). It is based on decades of ElephantVoices behavioral studies, photographs, and audio and video recordings, the referenced research of other elephant biologists, as well as professional and amateur footage made available to ElephantVoices. You can read more about how elephants communicate within this section of elephantvoices.org.

    Joyce and Petter documenting elephant behavior in Amboseli, Kenya. (©ElephantVoices)The Elephant Ethogram consists of written and referenced descriptions, video examples, photographic illustrations and, where relevant, audio recordings, of 322 Behaviors, 103 Behavioral Constellations and 23 Behavioral Contexts. There are close to 3,000 media files in the fully searchable Elephant Ethogram including 2,408 video clips (18 August 2021).

    The concept and structural design of The Elephant Ethogram was developed by Joyce Poole and Petter Granli of ElephantVoices. Programming and database maintenance is handled by Derrick Joel, Nairobi, Kenya in collaboration with Petter. The Elephant Ethogram is coded in open source software PhP and MySQL in Joomla! CMS, and is hosted on Cisco servers as a section of elephantvoices.org. Video and audio is hosted on Vimeo and SoundCloud, respectively.

    What is an Ethogram?

    An ethogram is a comprehensive list, inventory, catalogue or description of the behaviors or actions exhibited by a

  • Launch of The Elephant Ethogram

    Screenshot from The Elephant Ethogram

    ElephantVoices logo

    Dear ElephantVoices friend,

    The Elephant Ethogram: A Library of African Elephant Behavior is live! We are very excited with the results of this massive, multi-year effort and hope to entice you with our science-telling. There are close to 2,400 educational video clips currently uploaded, each associated with detailed descriptions and stories. In addition, you will find more than 600 field recordings, spectrograms and imagesThe Elephant Ethogram is a culmination of Joyce's life’s work and it feels very satisfying to be able to share it with the world through the organization we founded together almost 20 years ago.

    We officially launched The Elephant Ethogram on 25th May. Read National Geographic's interview with Joyce linked here. Forbes covered the launch with this article - and more media coverage will follow during the days to come. Going forward our ambition is to ensure The Elephant Ethogram will be an important resource used long-term in the best interests of both wild and captive elephants.

    The Introduction page will give you some basic information about The Elephant Ethogram. The User Guide will help you find your way, with the Search Portal being the place for all kinds of searches. The Science section is for those especially interested

  • Mock-Charge-Play-Trumpet

    Amboseli elephant trumpet loudly - mock-charge-play-trumpet. (©ElephantVoices)Similar to the harmonic-play-trumpet, but exhibiting a more prolonged and resolute quality is a trumpet that is associated with Mock-Charging behavior.

    Cavorting elephants often chase other species in their environment (such as rabbits, hyenas, wildebeests, monkeys) during which they trumpet loudly.

    We term trumpets associated with this form of play, mock-charge-play-trumpets. These trumpets are significantly longer in duration than harmonic-play-trumpets.

  • Tactile communication


    Elephants are extremely tactile animals. They purposefully touch one another using their trunk, ears, tusks, feet, tail, and even their entire body. Tactile interactions between elephants occur during a broad range of contexts including Aggressive, Affiliative, Coalition Building, Conflict & Confrontation, Advertisement & Attraction, Courtship, Social Play, Calf Reassurance & Protection Calf Nourishment & Weaning and Attentive.

    Depending upon how their tusks are employed, elephants may use them to poke another aggressively, to gently lift a baby from a mud wallow, or to express solidarity during a greeting ceremony.

    Elephants often use their ears to rub against another affectionately or in play, or their tails to swat another with force or to gently check for the presence of a calf.

    An elephant's trunk may be used to caress, reassure or assist a calf, to explore the genitals, mouth or temporal glands of a family member, to touch or explore the body of a dead elephant, to touch or push another in play. In more aggressive or defensive contexts an elephant may use its trunk to slap or to block, or to reach out to another for reassurance when facing a predator. In sexual contexts elephants use their trunks to explore,

  • The Elephant Ethogram

    ElephantVoices is working on a major initiative to document the repertoire of African savannah elephant behavior (Loxodonta africana). The Elephant Ethogram represents a unique and comprehensive source of information about elephant behaviour and communication, based on ElephantVoices' decades of behavioural study, our multimedia photographic and acoustic collections, as well as footage collected during the filming of documentaries from the Maasai Mara, Kenya, and Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. The Elephant Ethogram describes and preserves the gestural and acoustic "language" and behaviour of a species whose way of life, and very existence, is threatened by human greed and expansion.

    The first version of The Elephant Ethogram was made available on ElephantVoices.org in April 2021. 

    Purpose & Objectives

    The Elephant Ethogram documents in a unique, user-friendly and fully searchable database, the complex and diverse communication and behavior of African elephants for scientists and others to study, compare and share. As a repository of exemplars of elephant behaviour, The Elephant Ethogram aims to:

    • preserve the gestural and acoustic repertoire, or "language," of African savannah elephants;
    • be a valuable resource and reference for scientific study;
    • be a repository of rare elephant behaviors and those evolving through social learning in response to rapidly increasing anthropogenic threats;
    • inspire increased interest in elephant behavior,
  • User Guide

    This user guide is intended to help you explore The Elephant Ethogram and find the information you are looking for. Behaviors and Behavioral Constellations may be found by clicking on the links in the Ethogram Table or by using the Search Functions on the Search Portal. You can read more about how elephants communicate within this section of elephantvoices.org.

    The Ethogram Table

    The Ethogram Table is an overview of all of the Behaviors, Behavioral Constellations and Behavioral Contexts contained in The Elephant Ethogram. In the left column, we define 23 Contexts. In the middle and right columns we list the Behaviors and Constellations that occur in the different Contexts. Many Behaviors and Constellations occur in more than one Context. The number of video examples of a Behavior/Constellation in a particular Context are given in parentheses.

    A click on a linked Behavior or Constellation will take you to where it is documented with a written and referenced description, one or more annotated video examples, and/or audio recordings. Audio recordings are also documented with a spectrogram, accessible through a link in the audio caption.

    The Search Portal

    Screenshot showing search options in The Elephant Ethogram

    There are four Search Functions on the Search Portal that return Behaviors and Constellations matching the search. Click on a linked Behavior or Constellation to read its description and to view the annotated video and/or audio examples.