Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Elephants have names for each other: New study


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Facts about Elephants

Why in the News?

  • Recent studies utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools have revealed that elephants possess unique names used to address each other, placing them among the select animals with this ability.
    • Unlike animals such as parrots and dolphins, elephants do not imitate the calls of those they address, resembling humans in this communicative trait.

Naming Behavior in Elephants

  • Unlike humans, elephants do not mimic the calls of the addressee, setting their communication apart from other animals.
  • Published in Nature, the study titled ‘African elephants address one another with individually specific name-like calls’ involved researchers from institutions like Colorado State University and Save The Elephants.

Study Methodology

  • Communication Methods: Contrary to popular belief, elephants predominantly communicate through low-pitched rumbles rather than trumpets, which are primarily emotional expressions.
  • Data Analysis: Researchers analyzed recordings of wild female African savannah elephants and their offspring’s rumbles across various Kenyan national parks spanning from 1986 to 2022.
  • AI Application: Using AI technology, they scrutinized 469 recorded rumbles to detect patterns indicating specific recipients of the communication.
    • Success Rate: The AI model successfully identified the intended elephant recipient in 27.5% of cases, surpassing chance levels.


  • Behavioural Observation: To validate their findings, researchers played back recorded rumbles to 17 elephants and noted heightened reactions when elephants heard their ‘names’, indicating recognition of individual names.
  • Unique Communication: Unlike animals that imitate others’ calls, elephants display no evidence of imitation, suggesting a unique communication strategy.

Significance of the Study

  • Sophisticated Communication: The study underscores elephants’ advanced communication abilities, challenging previous assumptions about their cognitive prowess.
  • Human-Elephant Parallels: It draws parallels between human and elephant communication, fostering greater admiration for elephants and potentially mitigating human-elephant conflicts crucial for conservation efforts.
  • Future Research: Further investigation is warranted to pinpoint the exact location of elephant names within rumbles and explore whether elephants assign names to objects besides individuals.

Back2Basics: Elephants in India

Population Estimate
  • India hosts the largest population of wild Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus), with around 29,964 individuals,
  • Approximately 60% of the global population (2017 census).
Leading States Karnataka holds the highest number of elephants, followed by Assam and Kerala.
Conservation Status
  • IUCN Red List:  Endangered.
  • CMS: Appendix I.
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Listed under Schedule I,
  • CITES: Appendix I.
Conservation Initiatives
  • ‘Project Elephant’ was launched in 1992, covering 23 states across India.
    • This project contributed to the increase in the wild elephant population from around 25,000 in 1992 to about 30,000 in 2021.
  • Establishment of Elephant Reserves. Total 33 in numbers covering approximately 80,777 Sq.km.



[2020] With reference to Indian elephants, consider the following statements:

  1. The leader of an elephant group is a female.
  2. The maximum gestation period can be 22 months.
  3. An elephant can normally go on calving till the age of 40 years only.
  4. Among the States in India, the highest elephant population is in Kerala.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 4 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 3 and 4 only

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