An undulating Rumble of medium duration (~1.5-3.5 seconds) with an audibly detectable and distinctive complaining or whining tone. We refer to this as a Grumble-Rumble. This call is typically heard when the calling elephant, often a calf or younger elephant, has been thwarted or mistreated in some manner.

For example, when a mother denies a Begging calf access to her breast, the calf may escalate Begging-Rumbles into a more modulated or undulating and sometimes open-mouthed Grumble-Rumble. A calf gently Tusked, Head-Swiped or Pushed out of the way may Grumble-Rumble. We have also recorded a semi-captive elephant Grumble-Rumble when prevented by her caregivers from going to the roadside where she was accustomed to begging for food from tourists.

References: Poole 2011. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Calf Nourishment & Weaning, Calf Reassurance & Protection, Submissive, Protest & Distress


Context: Protest & Distress (1)

Matriarch Gina is at the salt lick with her family. A young male is also there - two elephants over from her. We can’t see that he is being bothersome, but she sees him off and he Retreats-From her. While Gina is away an adult female Pushes Gina's male calf away so that she can dig where Gina was. He gives an open-mouthed Grumble-Rumble in protest and follows after Gina. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (2)

Little E is 3 days old and his family is browsing. Grumpy Grandma seems grumpy as usual. Allomother adolescent female Lorato is browsing and apparently in the way and Grumpy Grandma Head-Swipes and Tusks her away. Lorato Orients-Away raises her head and ears, opens her mouth and lets out an open-mouthed Grumble-Rumble in protest. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (3)

Three calves have been playing, especially an 18 month old male (left) and a 4 year old female right. An 18 month old female is behind inspecting a tree. The 4 year old pauses in her game with the male to Push and Tusk the little female and she complains with a Grumble-Rumble. The 4 year old persists bothering the littler female and she protests with a Roar. The older female goes back to her game with the male. The male (left) sucks on the the tusk of the 4 year old female (right). The 4 year old purposefully grabs the trunk of the little male and bites it and holds it in her mouth (Bite-Trunk). After some time he emits a Grumble-Rumble in protest. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (4)

Big mama's family is slowly Moving-While-Feeding. There is a commotion in the back of the group where an 18 month old male is Mounting another male the wrong way around! He has Mounted his head, clasping both ears in his forelegs. The mounted calf appears to give a Grumble-Rumble in protest.

There is an alternative explanation for this call - behind Big Mama we see a 4 year old female calf. At the moment of the call we see a trunk reach out to touch her and both Big Mama and her adolescent daughter in the foreground Look-Back with Ear-Lifting. It is equally possible that this is an As-Touched-Rumble by the calf. The two calls are similar in quality and the wind is too strong to differentiate. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (5)

Nalakite is carrying and eating a branch. Her two sons aged 6 and 10 are walking beside her Soliciting-Food, the older male Social-Rubbing against her and reaching toward her mouth. She drops a bit of stick in an act of Food-Sharing. Neither male notices until later and they both reach into her mouth to Solicit-Food. She pulls away and Grumble-Rumbles at them in a complaining tone. She purposefully removes another bit of the stick and drops it on the ground, in another act of Food-Sharing, this time for the 10 year old, who again Social-Rubs against her and picks up the stick she has dropped and eats it.

Meanwhile, the 6 year old male has realized that she had dropped a stick, but he can't reach it with her legs in the way (and it has already been taken by his brother). She continues to walk forward and he emits a Grumble-Rumble. The six year old still searches the ground blocking his mother's way and then, in frustration, jabs her with his tusk - the Tusking causing her leg to buckle! She Redirects-Aggression swinging her trunk toward the 10 year old, who, anticipating trouble, emits a Grumble-Rumble. Mum continues to walk and when the 6 year old is behind her, she uses a back leg to Kick-Back. He Grumble-Rumbles and comes around behind her to the other side. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (6)

In the first circle in this clip we see a calf running alongside his mother with trunk outstretched Begging for her to stop so he can Suckle. She keeps moving. The second circle highlights the calf giving a Grumble-Rumble as she stops to let him Suckle briefly. A female in the foreground Rumbles to him. Perhaps a Coo-Rumble. (Amboseli, Kenya)