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Sounds of Silence
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Home > Elephants of Cameroon > About The Species > Sounds of Silence

Sounds of Silence

by Jayne Owen Parker

Page 1 : The Mystery of Elephants

Where do elephants come from?

That question has mystified African wildlife watchers for centuries. These people were not wondering about elephant reproduction, mind you. They were questioning the uncanny "luck" elephants seemed to have in popping up at just the right time and in just the right place.

In fact, at times, elephants almost seem clairvoyant when it comes to synchronizing their social activities. Anecdotes abound about their psychic timing. In one report, a researcher watched a young bull stride confidently down a trail, then suddenly whirl around and vanish into the bush. Minutes later, a large, rival bull charged over a distant hill. Another group of scientists reported trailing a small herd of female elephants for weeks, never seeing hide nor tusk of a male. All that changed as soon as one of the females entered estrus, and bulls came pouring in from all directions. In other accounts, whole families seemed to choreograph their movements with the precision of synchronized swimmers. One researcher watched a line of elephants plod forward in single file. Suddenly, they all stopped, raised their ears and turned their heads in unison, as if bound together by invisible strings. With precision, the entire group then spun around and ran off in a new direction.

People lucky enough to see these odd happenings usually respond in one of two ways. Some pooh-pooh the events as mere coincidence. Others suspect, whether they admit it or not, that elephants possess some kind of supernatural power. It turns out that neither of these explanations is correct. Coincidence has nothing to do with the movements. Elephants can and do coordinate their activities over incredible distances. On the other hand, elephants do not rely on telepathy to orchestrate these movements over time and space.

Elephants seem psychic only because they live in a world slightly askew from our own. Their senses make them privy to information we lack, and this information keeps elephants connected in ways that fall beyond the realm of human experiences. Just as a dog or bat hears whistles pitched too high for the human ear, elephants can produce and perceive rumbles that drop below the range of human hearing. These "infrasounds" pass easily over long distances and allow elephants to broadcast information about their movements, their search for mates and their alarm over impending dangers by booming out calls that sound like silence to us.

Next Page : Long Distance Calls
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