How elephants communicate
Like all highly social mammals elephants have a well-developed system of communication that makes use of all of their senses - hearing, smell, vision and touch - including an exceptional ability to detect vibrations.
Acoustic communication takes a look at sound production and hearing in elephants; chemical communication explains how elephants use various secretions and their acute sense of smell to communicate; visual communication looks at how elephants make use of postures and displays and their sense of sight in communication; tactile communication describes how elephants make use of their sense of touch to communicate.
At one end of the spectrum elephants communicate by rubbing their bodies against one another, at the other end they may respond by moving toward the sounds of other elephants calling, perhaps 10 kilometers away. They convey information about their physiological (e.g. sexual/hormonal, body condition, identity) and emotional state (e.g. whether they are fearful, playful, joyful, angry, excited) as well as communicating specific "statements" about their intentions or desires. In this section we look at how elephants use the different pathways of communication and the actual mechanics of communicating.
You can here on ElephantVoices find numerous elephant sounds, in fully searchable databases and elsewhere. Visit our Elephant Calls Database - Contexts for a comprehensive collection of sounds with description. You may also want to check out the Elephant Calls Database - Call Types, where we go through elephant calls categorized based on the way that the sound is produced.
On the page Echo of the Elephants you can play a number of sounds produced by this world renown elephant that for decades was an amazing matriarch of our main study group of elephants, the EB family in Amboseli, Kenya. Echo died in May 2009.