Animal communication can't be compared to human speech, but Koshik was trying to make contact with his captors
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Thursday 01 November 2012
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but there is little doubt that Koshik’s mimicry of human sounds is nothing but an attempt to emulate the noises of the people who were closest to him for the five years he lived without the company of other elephants.
Animal communication cannot be compared to the complexities of human speech, with its extensive vocabulary and rules of grammar and syntax.
The five Korean words that Koshik can articulate with the tip of his trunk amount to little more than parrot-like repetition with no understanding of what is meant.
And yet, there is something endearing about a mammal of this size wanting to alter the pitch of his vocals so that he can be heard by the humans around him.
The usual frequencies of the low-frequency sounds made by elephants are often beyond the range of the human ear.
Koshik was indeed trying to make contact with his captors.
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