A powerful, relatively long and seemingly sustained, Trumpet lasting 1-1.5 seconds in duration produced when an elephant or group of elephants confronts a predator, or other perceived threat. An individual may Advance-Toward or Charge while Trumpeting. Referred to as a Trumpet-Blast these calls are intended to intimidate, and, typically, Charges that are associated with them end abruptly. Yet, in our experience, it is wise not to assume that a Trumpeting and Charging elephant will not make good her threat.

Cavorting elephants Charging at or Running-After other species during Social Play (such as rabbits, hyenas, wildebeests, monkeys, or the human observer) typically Trumpet-Blast, too. While such Trumpets produced in the two contexts are similar, those produced when confronting a serious threat are more powerful and it is certainly possible to hear a difference between the two contexts. We previously called those produced during play Mock-Charge-Play-Trumpets (Poole, 2011).

References: Poole & Granli 2004; Poole 2011 [including Mock-Charge-Play-Trumpet]. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Aggressive, Attacking & Mobbing, Calf Reassurance & Protection, Social Play


Context: Attacking & Mobbing (1)

We are driving along the Urema Road when we meet the V family. We hear Trumpet-Blasts and see elephants Charging at us through the trees (The trumpet-blast that is shrill is made by a calf). We stop.

Tuskless female, Valda, stands Head-Swinging and Foot-Lifting. Then she begins a Perpendicular-Walk, which appears to be a signal for one-tusked Vigilante to Charge. Vigilante Charges, pauses and Charges again and the others join her in a Group-Charge. There are two Trumpet-Blasts when Vigilante Charges. It is possible to hear the age difference in the frequency of the trumpet. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Attacking & Mobbing (2)

Matriarch gf0073 and her family are in the forest as we drive up. This is the first time we have encountered this family and they are very agitated, Bunching and Standing-Tall. Matriarch gf0073 Charges and comes very close to the car. The family comes out of the forest in a Group-Advance and giving Trumpet-Blasts. They back away and continue to confront us, Trumpet-Blasting. Then we hear low rumbling and most of the family returns to the forest.

gf0073 enters the scene from the right doing a Perpendicular-Walk and we hear a rumble. She takes 12 perpendicular steps before she adds a Bow-Neck, turns and begins a silent Bow-Neck-Charge. She Trunk-Drag-Bounce as she comes closer. She runs 10 paces toward us in the Bow-Neck posture. She Sashays as she reach within a couple meters of the car. The video and audio are difficult to include as she almost hits the vehicle. The others come back from the forest giving Trumpet-Blasts. Finally they turn and all return to the forest. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Attacking & Mobbing (3)

Matriarch gf0073 and her family are in the forest as we drove up. This is the first time encounter with this family and they are very agitated, Bunching and Standing-Tall. gf0073 has done a Perpendicular-Walk and gave us a very serious Charge and then they all retreated to the forest.

As this clip begins we were departing and gf0073 Charges from the forest at high speed. The video is very shaky but we can see her Trunk-Bounce, Stand-Tall, and then as she begins to Charge again - she Trunk-Bounces with the underside of her trunk. She gives several Trumpet-Blasts.

At the end of the video we can see that the rest of the family is joining her. She chased us a good 600 m with the others following behind. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Attacking & Mobbing (4)

At the end of the day a family arrives, joining the Mabenzis and many others. The matriarch, gf0061, was an elephant we recognized due to a gaping tear in her ear, but we did not have good ID photos of her and her family. We decided to drive a little closer so that we could take some.

As the clip starts we are driving toward the family. When we are a good 80 meters away a large adult female we later named, Ambuscadora, comes like a rocket from the forest in a Charge. We turn and drive away. She gives several Trumpet-Blasts as she chases us. The first time she pauses, perhaps so as not to hit us, she leaves her hind legs stiffly out behind her and drags them along the ground to stop.

As we drive away she Charges again and gives a beautiful, audible Trunk-Bounce. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Attacking & Mobbing (5)

We saw one male, gm0131, but from the air Matavele saw 3 males around us. We first saw him on Picada 1 where he rushed across the road in a panic as Matavele took off. Later we met him on the other side of the Sand Forest. We followed him a ways off the road and that led us to other groups. He Stood-Tall, Displacement-Dusting and Charged us, though not seriously. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Attacking & Mobbing (6)

This clip is taken from a longer sequence of behavior of the I family. As the clip starts matriarch iJunia, gf0005, has slowed her Charge to a Bow-Neck-Advance-Toward. She takes the lead with Isabella, gf0038, by her side and a tiny baby in tow. Someone gives a Trumpet-Blast and iJunia Head-Dips. They stop near us and Isabella reaches Trunk-to-Mouth to iJunia. They Bunch facing us Standing-Tall and Head-Swinging and iJunia Head-Dip-Touch-Ground. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Attacking & Mobbing (7)

Provocadora Charges at us and we drive away. As she Charges she gives a Trumpet-Blast followed by a Pulsated-Trumpet. When she stops, we stop. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Attacking & Mobbing (8)

As part of a long Group-Charge Marcella, gf0017, takes over from Mwana Nzo, gf0016. Here she is in full Charge. Notice how she raises her Head-High and lowers it. When her head is lowered she engages in Trunk-Bounce-Drag. She Trumpet-Blasts twice and as we pull away and she slows and Head-Dip-Touch-Ground twice. Her Charge is replaced by Valente, gf0012. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Attacking & Mobbing (9)

We are with a large aggregation of several families - perhaps 60 elephants. The group became alarmed when we arrived as they were caught out in the open. They began moving in a purposeful way almost as if in a Perpendicular-Walk - about 100 m from us. A one-tusked female gf0151 (circled) was in the lead. She disappeared out of view and then the others stopped Waiting and Listening. Obviously gf0151 must have gone ahead and then turned on us because suddenly she was coming for us from a completely different angle.

You can here Joyce swear as she realizes she is Charging and we hear gf0151 crash through the vegetation and Trumpet-Blast before the camera is able to turn and catch up with her. She gave another two Trumpet-Blasts Standing-Tall. Then she walked away and then Pirouetted and Backed-Toward the Bunching group. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Attacking & Mobbing (10)

A sub-section of the C family is crossing the track behind us. We have been observing them for a while and they have been very vigilant Listening and Head-Swinging. Nomada crosses first but is rather unsure - she stands looking at us, Chin-Up and Ears-Spread. She Backs-Toward the others who are still on the other side of the track. She Reach-Touch Corajosa, as if to get her attention and, we believe, her assistance. Corajosa Rapid-Ear-Flaps and Rumbles. Nomada turns to cross the track again with calves in tow and turns to face us with Ears-Spread. Corajosa then comes from the bushes on the left, and Sashays across the road. We hear more deep Rumbling. She Kicks-Dust and Charges with her Head-Low. She gives a Trumpet-Blast and does a Trunk-Bounce with her chopped trunk at then end of her Charge. Someone else also Trumpets and we hear more Rumbling. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Social Play (1)

As an adolescent male Floppy-Runs at the car he lowers his head adopting a floppy-bodied Bow-Neck-Charge position and shakes his head from side to side Head-Waggling. He gives a Pulsated-Trumpet and a Trumpet-Blast. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Social Play (2)

This juvenile male has been playing in the water with another juvenile male until they were frightened by hippos and came rushing out. Now he Redirects-Aggression and chases birds instead. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Social Play (3)

A juvenile female is at the head of her family walking along the edge of the KH4 Waterhole. She Charges at the Egyptian geese with Head-Low and Trunk-Coiled and gives a Trumpet-Blast. As her family catches up she again Charges Head-Low and Trunk-Coiled. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Social Play (4)

A male juvenile about 6 has been left behind. He runs to catch up with his family, scattering egrets with some Trumpet-Blasts as he runs. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Conflict & Confrontation (1)

It is almost dark when Walli's family meets a pride of lions as they are walking across difficult, rocky terrain. A young female with a one year old calf is walking at the head of the group. The calf attracts the attention of a lioness, who stalks it until the calf becomes aware and runs away Roaring. The mother turns and gives a Trumpet-Blast. The camera pans to the right where a juvenile male also confronts the lions with a Trumpet-Blast. Following him come the rest of his family - Walli with an infant and two calves. As they walk through the pride we hear two more Trumpet-Blasts given by the younger elephants. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Calf Reassurance & Protection (1)

Note: Powerful elephant calls! Little E is one month old. As the clip starts he is seen being looked after by allomothers V-Notch and Lorato. He becomes curious about the filmmakers car and walks toward it. V-notch, who is ahead, becomes alarmed and turns back to protect him Ear-Spreading and briefly Trunk-Sucking. Little E rushes past them to the car. Bob says softly "Hey, Little E" as he (we believe) touches the car. The two aunties freak out and give a series of Trumpet-Blasts.

Little E is alarmed - caught between his noisy aunties and the car. He is too close to see what is happening, but we can see him Tail-Raising and see the feet of his allomothers moving back and forth. His mother, Mama Little E, rushes over to join the allomothers and manages to retrieve him. They all Shepherd him back to safety, Backing-Away while Standing-Tall and his mother uses her trunk to gently move him away. They rumble and Bunch around Little E with Mama Little E and V-Notch on either side and Lorato Sashaying in to fill in the gap between Little E and the vehicle. They continue to Back-Away and then, when little E tries to Suckle, his mother uses her trunk to purposefully lead his mouth to her breast (Trunk-to-Breast). Lorato Head-Shakes. Then they walk away past car. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Aggressive (1)

A couple of families have met and are bathing in a pool. As the elephants begin to depart the female on the left Ear-Folds and Advances-Toward a female from another family who Retreats-From and disappears from view. We see the aggressor pause and Orient-Away and then Orient-Toward and stand with Chin-Out in an aggressive posture as if she is receiving a counter threat.

She continues Advancing-Toward and then suddenly turns and Runs-Away, splashing into the water as a third, larger female Charges into view, Forward-Trunk-Swings and Trumpet-Blasts at her in threat. This larger female is likely the matriarch, mother or close ally of the second female. The female who was chased back into the waters waits with J-Trunk and then turns and follows the others out of the water. (Amboseli, Kenya)