An elephant in Korea has learned how to imitate human speech with words such as 'hello' and 'good'.
The feat is all the more remarkable because elephants, like many mammals, don't have sufficient vocal control to mimic human speech. In this case the elephant known as Koshik has managed to get around this problem by placing his trunk in his mouth and massaging his vocal tract so that he can recite the words. It's the first time an elephant has ever been known to do this.
Researchers conducted a study to determine the extent of Koshik's abilities. Volunteers who spoke Korean natively were played 47 recordings of the elephant speaking and asked to write down what they believe he had said. The results indicated that Koshik was indeed able to pronounce words and phrases such as 'annoying', 'sit down' and 'no' with remarkable ease.
"Cases of mammals being able to make human-like sounds are extremely rare, because even close animal relatives like chimpanzees do not have enough vocal control to match our pitch and tone."
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