How Recorded Tiger Growls Might Help Elephants

Playback could keep them away from crops and deadly confrontations

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 14, 2013 8:34 AM CDT

(Newser) – The growls of tigers—though not the tigers themselves—might become more common near farms in India if the results of a new study are put into place. As National Geographic explains, researchers discovered that recordings of tiger growls caused Asian elephants to quickly retreat during night forages. This could be a big deal if it eventually helps keeps elephants away from crops and villages, because the confrontations that result are often deadly—an estimated 200 dead humans and 200 dead elephants per year.

The researchers found that elephants had such a keen sense of hearing that they could distinguish the growls of different cats, the better to know when they were truly in danger. With tigers, they didn't mess around: They retreated quickly and silently, says the study in Biology Letters. With leopards, which pose less of a threat, the elephants made threatening noises and stomped around upon hearing the growls, although they still retreated eventually. The tricky part is making sure the elephants don't get so used to the growls that they start ignoring them. Another study will experiment with sounds from different places, to simulate a moving cat. (Elsewhere in the animal kingdom, researchers have found that one insect has gears to help it jump.)

File photo of an Asian elephant.
File photo of an Asian elephant.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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The elephants eventually scatter when hearing the growls of a leopard. They leave more quickly when it's a tiger.   (YouTube)
Video of elephants reacting to tiger growls.   (YouTube)

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