Elephants Can Mimic Human Speech

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There are few animals that can mimic human speech on the planet, of course most of them are in the bird family with Parrots, Cockatoo’s and others being the most famous when you think of an animal that can say human words.

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It was recently discovered and confirmed that one Asian elephant can say 5 korean words including: "aniya" ("no"), "nuo" ("lie down"), "choah" ("good"), "annyong" ("hello") and "anja" ("sit down") you have to consider how incredible this discovery is and what this means that Elephants have this capability.

That’s right, this is a talking elephant and this elephant capable of speech has been trained and raised in captivity since 1990, the elephant named Koshik was trained to understand commands in Korean.  But the implications behind what the elephant must do to speak clear words is what is astounding.  An elephant cannot normally vocalize human speech at all, this elephant inserts it’s trunk into it’s mouth manipulating its vocal cavity to allow it to mimic these five words.  The fact that it learned to insert it’s trunk into it’s mouth to modify it’s speech capability is something that no other animal has demonstrated.  They haven’t  yet determined if the Elephant has understanding of the words it is saying or if it is just parroting / imitating the words to forge a bond with it’s handlers but if it does indeed understand meaning or proper usage of the word it would join the African Grey Parrot as the 2nd animal to understand some words that it mimics I believe.

To my knowledge in researching only a Seal and a Beluga whale were other mammals that have been shown capable of imitating human speech to where it can be understood and mistaken for a person talking.

This is indeed astounding and in my opinion we often underestimate the intelligence of animals just because they can’t perform our testing assuming they don’t have that intelligence factor.  Elephants may end up being the smartest living land animal next to human beings.

-Justin Germino

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Updated: November 5, 2012 — 10:07 am