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ELEPHANT TALK - KOSHIK - Research Paper Example

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Annyeong” (hello), “anja” (sit down), “aniya” (no), “nuwo” (lie down) and “joa” (good) are 5 simple Korean words but if an elephant says, they become much more exciting. In 2006 a YouTube Video was released that featured a talking Elephant…
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Download file to see previous pages Dr. Stoegar and her fellow researchers are of the opinion that Koshik had been kept in solitude for a relatively long period of time, especially during the crucial growing period when an elephant, which is an extremely social animal develop its social skills, and since Koshik had no other elephant to socialize and bond with, he started imitating his trainers. The social habits of Asian elephants are somewhat similar to those of African elephants. They live in groups of 5-20 and thus they are extremely social and need to communicate. “Parents or alloparents, provide the primary sensory input and regulation of all essential development processes that interact with greater environmental conditions” (West et al, 2003) and since Koshik’s caregivers had taken up the role of his alloparents, their speech and behavior guided the neuro-ethological patterning of Koshik who adapted his speech by putting his trunk tip into his mouth in order to modulate the voice production process and started imitating the sounds that his caretakers would used to communicate with him. Koshik’s case is not the first of its kind. A male African elephant in Kazakhstan apparently could speak Russian; however lack of scientific evidence in the case makes Koshik the first living elephant who can imitate human sounds. Physiologically, the process of voice modulation in case of Koshik could not be determined because he is too big for an X-ray and is not well trained to undergo such test procedures. So, there was no way to establish the exact place of sound origination or the process of human-like sound production. Researchers had to determine that Koshik was actually speaking Korean words than just making a modulated sound which by chance matched Korean words. They recorded Koshik’s words and played them back to some Korean natives and asked to write down whatever they heard. The answers excited the researchers because they matched the words that the caretakers had claimed that Koshik could utter. “Vocal learning is defined is defined as the modification of the acoustic structure of the vocalization as a result of experience” (Janik and Slater, 2000). Prior to Koshik, elephants have been known to imitate sounds that they heard through modified vocalization. Mlaika, a 10 year old female African elephant who lived among a semi-captive group of African elephants, could imitate sounds of trucks. Spectrogram studies showed that the sound of trucks and the truck-like sounds made by Mlaika were similar and the noises made by Mlaika were very much different than those made by other African elephants (Poole, et al, 1988). Thus, it was proved by researchers that besides birds and marine mammals, elephants were also capable of learning vocal imitation. Dr. Stoegar conducted a similar spectrogram study on Koshik and a group of free ranging Asian elephants. "Human speech basically has two important aspects, pitch and timbre," says Angela Stoeger of the Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna. The results of the spectrogram test showed that quality and the frequency of each word uttered by Koshik, his trainer and a native Korean speaker matched to a great extent, while the sound graphs of other Asian elephants were very much different, giving the impression that the scientists had been hoping for- Koshik had modulated his vocalization to imitate and communicate with his keeper. However, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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