It wasn't long ago that people used to express surprise to learn that elephants could essentially "talk" to one another. Of course they can! How else can animals with strong individual personalities, living in a complex society, achieve anything? The purpose of this database, and the work that we have carried out over two decades, is to share with you the voices of elephants, and through them the complexities of their daily life.

Little-Greeting - female greets Grace. (©ElephantVoices) One of the fundamental behavioural characteristics of elephants is their demonstrative nature. Expressions of what appear to be joy, anger, silliness, and outright indignation are all commonly seen. Elephants seem to revel in making a "big deal" about everything - they are the quinessential Drama Queens. For example, if one member of a family expresses umbrage, family and friends rush to her side to comment and concur and to provide emotional support and physical backup, if necessary.

Elephants vocalize in a wide range of situations. They call to advertise physiological or hormonal state, to warn others and to threaten, to demonstrate strong emotions, to announce needs or desires, to propose, negotiate or discuss a plan of action, to coordinate group movement, to secure group defence, to care for calves, to solicit care or support, to reinforce bonds between family and friends, to reconcile differences, and to assert dominance. Elephants communicate with one another using a variety of call types and, within those, call sub-types or what we call "context-types."

This particular database describes the calls that elephants use in specific contexts (i.e. when mating, begging, protesting, playing etc) in other words, elephant call "context-types." Before you explore this database, you may want to familiarize yourself with the over-arching elephant call types here. You may also enjoy checking out the article published on National Geographic online in April 2014 - "What Elephant Calls Mean: A Users Guide" - the result of a collaboration between ElephantVoices and National Geographic and with all the information contained compiled from this database.

This database together with the call type database represent a sample of our elephant call collection and are the result of many, many years of fieldwork, analysis and writing. It expands upon a body of work that will appear as Poole, J.H. In press. The behavioral contexts of African elephant acoustic communication. In: The Amboseli Elephants: A Long-Term Perspective on a Long-Lived Mammal. Moss, C.J. & Croze, H.J. (Eds.) University of Chicago Press. The book chapter is more technical and addresses statistical differences between the different call types and proposed context-types. For those of you interested in obtaining more detailed information about these results, or for obtaining access to calls for further analysis, please get in touch. We welcome collaboration.

We intend to include spectrograms for each of the uploaded call files, but this will be done at a later date.

The sounds on the database are the copyright of ElephantVoices. Low frequency infoIf you wish to use them commercially or otherwise, please contact us.

If you wish to cite this work please use: Poole, J and Granli, P. 2009. Database of African elephant acoustic communication, To view the full structure for the database, click here.