Elephants Call Each Other by Names First Non-Humans To Call Individual Names! (2)

Elephants Call Each Other by Names | First Non-Humans To Call Individual Names!

Scientists have made a shocking discovery that challenges what we know about animal communication. For the first time, researchers at Colorado State University have found evidence suggesting that wild African elephants may be calling each other using distinct calls. Quite similar to the calling using names among humans. Elephants are now known as the first known animals besides humans to use vocal signals to individually call one another. This revelation breaks boundaries in our understanding of non-human species.

The study, though awaiting peer review, is a step forward in exploring animal communication. It echoes deeply with not only the scientific community but also with wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists. Let’s learn more about the findings on how they communicate with each other. 

Unveiling the Study: Elephants Using Distinct Calls

The study of Colorado State University study, reveals that elephants of Africa have a unique way of identifying each other. These elephants use vocalizations similar to how humans use names. The researchers observed this phenomenon in two different Kenyan ecosystems. Those are the sprawling Samburu area and the iconic Amboseli National Park

They recorded a remarkable array of 625 calls, 527 recordings from Samburu, and 98 from Amboseli, Kenya. From the recordings, they identified 114 unique “callers” and 119 unique “recipients.”  Their findings led to the reveal that African savannah elephants change the structure of their rumbling voices depending on the one they are communicating with. The vocal labels are not an imitation of the sound. They are unique to each elephant!

These findings uncover a unique form of animal communication. This form of communication is unlike anything among dolphins or parrots, species known for their intelligence and use of sounds. The study also reveals that these calls are not simply imitations of the recipient’s calls. They are suggesting a sophisticated level of calling among the elephants.

“Receivers of calls could be correctly identified from call structure significantly better than chance.” 

lead author of the study (confirming the predictive power of these vocalizations)
elephants call each other by name
Image source: ZME Science

The Science Behind Elephant Communication

Elephants are known for their rich palette of communication. They trumpet, and rumble, when they are looking for food and water. But not just that, they also make unique sounds when an elephant in the herd is not in sight. Each sound, a stride in their language, carries distinct meanings and is part of a complex social life. Through the Colorado State University study, we peek into the mechanics of elephant communication.

This detailed analysis of elephants’ hearing characteristics and statistical tests on their calls further shows the level of intelligence and social complexity. The technology used to record and analyze these communications is just as impressive. They have used leveraged audio tracking to capture subtle differences in each unique call. It shows us that by comprehending elephant social structures and linguistic capabilities, we open a new chapter in animal intelligence studies.

Language Evolution and Animal Intelligence

The revelation that elephants may use vocals equivalent to names moves us into a new era of learning language evolution and animal intelligence. This expands our perception of cognition beyond our species. 


This novel study introduces us to an unknown realm where elephants, with their long-known wisdom, appear to bridge the gap between human and animal language. We’re invited to reflect on the more profound implications of how we relate to these intelligent giants and what their capabilities tell us about the natural world at large.

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