African elephants might be better at deciphering human voices than humans, reveals a new study.
The study conducted by Colorado State University found that elephants have no trouble finding out which human voices were causes for alarm and which weren't.
The study, which was initially conducted to find whether the wild elephants of Amboseli National Park could use the acoustic information contained in human language to distinguish the threat posed by Maasai tribes and Kamba ethnic group, featured recordings of men saying "look, look over there, a group of elephants is coming," in their respective languages.
The researchers also tried to find out if elephants could decipher the threat in the voices of Maasai women, who rarely hunt and found that the animals bunched together defensively or retreated when they heard the male voices, but rarely budged when they heard a woman.
The scientists also digitally altered the voices to make the Maasai women sound male and the Maasai men sound female, but the animals weren't fooled and retreated just as much after hearing the feminized male voices as they had before.
Graeme Shannon, lead co-author of the study said that elephants have an amazing ability to discern predators on a fine scale and can assign different levels of threats to certain groups.
The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.