12/03/2014

Elephants Can Hear Ethnicity In Our Voices

Good news: Wild elephants can recognise the gender and ethnicity of human voices.

Thank god for that because for a while back there I was worried that these elephants just thought we all were alike, like the massive grey racists they are. I know elephants are famous for never forgetting, which is a trait shared by the kind of people who go to international football games shouting, "Two World Wars and one World Cup!" And these days you hear about nice elephants who enjoy painting. Well so did Hitler.

But I got to thinking, elephants aren't racist because they think we all look alike, they're racist because they don't. They can discriminate between us, and that's, like, discrimination. (You can see I put a lot of thought into this one.)

The study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex (where there are lots of wild elephants?) found the elephants demonstrated more fear when they heard the voices of adult Maasai men, compared to Kamba men.

Ooooh, that does seem bad. Just because you hear a gang of Maasia men doesn't mean they're up to no good. OK, like, one Maasia man you met once may have been aggressive but you can't just think that they're all like that. Come on elephants, it's 2014.

The scientists used voice recordings of Maasai men, who on occasion come into conflict with elephants, and Kamba men, who are less of a threat to the animals. The recordings contained the same phrase in two different languages: "Look over there. A group of elephants is coming."

Clever that they used the same phrase in both languages, because otherwise you'd be forced to conclude not only that elephant can talk but they understand more languages than most people in the UK.

The elephants reacted more defensively to the Maasai language, but when they were played recordings of the same Maasai phrase spoken by women they were less troubled.

So the elephants can discriminate based on ethnicity AND gender. This is why elephants are never put in charge of recruitment, HR would have a field day with them.

>Read the source story
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