Elephant Calls Database - Contexts
When individuals belonging to a family or bond-group come together after a period of prolonged separation - perhaps hours, days, or weeks- their reunion may be pandemonium. Famiy members typically approach one another face to face and, as calling begins, they turn, "pirouette" to stand in parallel while Head-Raising, Ear-Lifting, and streaming with Temporin (see Gestures Database). Audible Rapid-Ear-Flapping may be heard as calling explodes with a burst of powerful, throaty, highly modulated and overlapping greeting-rumbles (see greeting-rumbles under this section).
The longer the separation and the closer the relationship between the calling individuals the more intense the greeting is likely to be. A simple greeting between two individuals typically involves a few overlapping greeting-rumbles, while the reunion of two closely bonded families may involve up to 50 or more elephants and last for up to five minutes.
During more intense greeting-ceremonies females may exhibit any or all of the following behaviors (see Gestures Database): Head-Raising, Ear-Lifting, Rapid-Ear-Flapping, Mouth-Opening, profuse secretion of Temporin, Urination, Defecation, Spinning, Tusk-Clicking, Open-Mouth-toOpen-Mouth, Reciprocal-Trunk-to-Mouth, High-Fiving. Associated with these intense greeting behaviors and greeting-rumbles are social-trumpets and social-roars (see under this section).
Prior to an elephant Greeting-Ceremony, rumbling may be heard back and forth between two converging groups. These initial calls sound like, and may be better classified as, contact-calls (see under Logistical calls). As the groups converge, greeting-rumbles typically begin with a series of powerful, highly modulated and overlapping rumbles, giving way to softer, less modulated rumbles that may continue for some minutes (see below). These softer rumbles are structurally quite different from the initial intense greeting-rumbles.
The more intense initial rumbles vary enormously, although they all show some degree of modulation in frequency and are of medium to long duration. Unfortunately, these calls are difficult to measure because the calls of so many individuals overlap. Within a single greeting-ceremony, arched, skewed, arched with a wiggly contour, bimodal, bimodal and skewed, and multi-modal rumbles occur.
During intense greeting-ceremonies elephants reach their trunks out toward, or to touch, other individuals and may put their trunks into one another's mouths. While the variability in calling may simply reflect the intensity of excitement, it may, alternatively, reveal additional information, such as a caller's signature or perhaps even reference to specific individuals.
What is the functional explanation for this remarkable cacophony of sound and scent? Could greeting-ceremonies serve to announce to distant elephants that the unit is once again a force to be reckoned with? Or do greeting-ceremonies express the deep sense of joy elephants feel at being reunited with friends - something like: "Wow! It's simply fantastic to be with you again!"
Many of the visual and tactile behaviors (and perhaps the vocalizations) that occur during a greeting-ceremony are also seen in a wide variety of other situations such as during reconciliations, after the rescue of a calf, following a mating (known as a mating-pandemonium). It may be that in these very similar displays elephants are a show of solidarity, a reinforcement of important bonds and that all of these circumstance could, instead be labelled bonding-ceremonies (see this section).
In Amboseli, a greeting-ceremony between the EBs as Echo, Erin, Eliot and their sub group join Ella, Eudora and Edwina and theirs. Note the great variety of overlapping rumbles, snort-rumbles, and social-trumpets and the ebb and flo of excitment that is reflected in the power and modulation of their calling.
In Amboseli a greeting-ceremony between members of Echo's family that lasts three minutes (this clip is a sub-section). The greeting occurred between Echo, Enid, and Edwina. The former and others had gone through the elephant grid and were waiting on the other side for Edwina. They waited and waited. Finally she came and they greet when she arrives. Note the softer, shorter rumbles in amongst the longer rumbles that can be heard well from about 33 seconds into the clip. These are made by a running "lost" calf who trumpets in alarm.
In Amboseli, a greeting-ceremony between Ella Eudora, Eleanor and Emma and their calves who come from Kudu Corner and catch up with the main body of the EB group. Erin goes forward to greet her daughter, Eleanor. The greeting-ceremony includes a series of rumbles and a some trumpets lasting over a minute.