Forskere har oppdaget at elefanter er i stand til å diffrensiere språk. De registerte at elefantene i Amboseli-parken i Kenya ikke reagerte på mennesker som ikke truet dem, mens de rygget tilbake når de hørte masaier snakket. Masaier er kjent for å angripe elefanter for å forsvare dyrene sine. Forskerne var forbløffet over funnet.
“Our results demonstrate that elephants can reliably discriminate between two different ethnic groups that differ in the level of threat they represent,” the authors said in an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study said an elephant herd was more likely to bunch up in a defensive position following playbacks of voices of Maasai people, an East African ethnic group that has hunted elephants for centuries, than other groups.
“Moreover, these responses were specific to the sex and age of Maasai presented, with the voices of Maasai women and boys, subcategories that would generally pose little threat, significantly less likely to produce these behavioral responses,” according to the study.
The researchers said the findings provided the first proof elephants can distinguish between human voices and suggested that other animals seeking to avoid hunters may also have developed this skill.
“Considering the long history and often pervasive predatory threat associated with humans across the globe, it is likely [this ability] could have been selected for in other cognitively advanced animal species,” it said.