Elephant Call Types Database
Roars are powerful, highly variable bellowing, screaming, shrieking or squealing sounds. They are divided into three main types. Noisy roars are very noisy calls and tend to be unmodulated. Tonal roars are those in which greater than 50% of the call is tonal and noisy elements, if there are any, occur only at the end of the call; they may be highly modulated, some reaching a clear crescendo before falling. Mixed roars alternate between noisy and tonal or contain noisy components making up more than 50% but <100% of the call. All roars sub-types may start, end, or start and end, with a rumble in which case they are termed roar-rumbles, rumble-roar-rumbles or rarely, rumble-roars.
Roars produced by infants are generally higher pitched than roars produced by adults and the terms “screaming”, “shrieking”, “squealing” or “crowing” better describe the quality of the roars by younger individuals. As elephants become larger roars takes on a more resonant “bellowing” or “roaring” quality.
Elephants in some form of distress emit most roars, with the vast majority being produced by infants, calves and juveniles begging for access to the breast, protesting unwanted or agonistic touching by another elephant, or separation from the mother. Adults roar when chased or tusked, when threatening predators, when chased by males during estrus, and most commonly, during highly exciting social events. The latter are more likely to occur as a rumble-roar-rumble.
Roars elicit the support or attention of others. For instance, roars by calves draw the attention of caretakers, those by an estrous female attract males, and those by a family member who has been tusked draw the immediate response and support of close associates.
A tonal-roar-rumble by a calf.
As musth male, Sioma, walks purposefully into the middle of an aggregation testing females and displacing males, a calf roars in distress.