Elephants May Know When It's Raining 150 Miles Away

GPS study suggests they head toward storms
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2014 8:30 AM CDT
Elephants May Know When It's Raining 150 Miles Away
Knie, an elephant in the Swiss national circus, takes a bath.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Valentin Flauraud)

Maybe the Weather Channel should start hiring elephants. A study in PLoS ONE suggests the creatures can detect rainstorms happening 150 miles away, possibly by hearing them even from that far off. Migrating elephants are known to change direction out of the blue, and researchers haven't been certain why. The Namibian research team figured it might be because of rain—as Phys.org explains, elephants are regularly looking for water in the region, which is dry outside of the January-to-March rainy season.

Researchers placed GPS devices on elephants in 14 different herds for seven years. Meanwhile, they kept track of rainfall in the region. They found that changes in the elephants' movements were associated with the direction of rain. "We don’t know if they can actually hear the thunder or if they are detecting other low-frequency sounds generated by the storms that humans can’t hear," a researcher says, as the tamuTimes reports. "But there is no doubt they know what direction the rain is." This information may help officials protect elephants, Discovery reports, because it could provide some guidance as to where the animals are headed. (The news comes amid fears African elephants could be wiped out within a century.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.