Elephant calls can be divided into two broad categories based on the way that the sound is produced. Sounds originating in the larynx are laryngeal calls. Trunk calls are those produced by a blast of air through the trunk. 

Elephant calls can be further categorized into presumed call types by ear and by visual inspection of spectrograms. For instance, one can easily hear broad differences between the rumbling, screaming, crying, barking sounds produced by elephants, and on a spectrogram one can easily see the difference between a noisy or tonal sound. Finally, one can measure structural differences in the time and frequency characteristics of sounds.Thumbnail image

Based on these broad differences as well as previous work of our colleagues, we have described 10 types. The laryngeal types are: rumblerevroar (with subtypes noisytonal, andmixed), crybarkgrunt and husky cry and the trunk call types,trumpetnasal-trumpet, and snort.

Besides these primary call types elephants frequently emit composite calls that grade from one type into another. This rich range of amalgamated calls includes snort-rumbles, roar-rumbles, rumble-roar-rumbles, cry-rumbles, bark-rumbles andtrumpet-rumbles. Elephants are most likely to produce these composite calls when they are disturbed or excited.

The elephant's capacity for vocal production learning, or imitation, creates the potential for an additional call type category namely, Imitated and Novel Calls that, while structurally unique, may not be socially relevant. These include croaking, squelching, purring and truck-like sounds as well as other idiosyncratic sounds, such as the elephant in a Korean zoo who imitates the voice of his handler.

This elephant call type database together with the more comprehensive elephant call context-type database represent a sample of our elephant call collection and is the result of many, many years of fieldwork, analysis and writing. The two databases expand upon a body of work that appear as Poole, J.H. The behavioral contexts of African elephant acoustic communication. In: The Amboseli Elephants: A Long-Term Perspective on a Long-Lived Mammal. Moss, C.J. & Croze, H.J. (Eds.) University of Chicago Press. The chapter is more technical and addresses statistical differences between the different call types and context-types. For those of you interested in obtaining more detailed information about these results, or for obtaining access to calls for further analysis, please get in touch. We welcome collaboration.

We intend to include spectrograms for each of the sound files uploaded, but this will be done at a later date.

The sounds on the database are the copyright of ElephantVoices. If you wish to use them commercially or otherwise, please contact usLow frequency infoIf you wish to cite this work please use: Poole, J and Granli, P. 2009. Database of African elephant acoustic communication, www.elephantvoices.org.

To view the full sitemap for the database, click here.