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Abstract and Summary

This analysis presents the physical characteristics of the vocalizations of the African elephant and describes the associated behavioral contexts of the elephant's communicative system. One male and 8 female African elephants were systematically observed in a relatively large captive environment. Their repertoire of sounds constitutes 10 distinct vocalizations which are emitted during 11 behavioral categories. Although all but one of the sounds is emitted in more than one context, many of the sounds are more characteristic of a specific behavior than others. An interesting finding is that the fundamental frequency of the emitted sound is significantly correlated to the level of excitement of the individual. In general, sounds with a low fundamental frequency are emitted when the animals are in a low level of excitement and are important in those behaviors which promote group cohesion and the orderly interactions of individuals. In contrast, the higher fundamental frequency sounds predominate when the animals are in a high level of excitement and are emitted most often during aggressive type behaviors. The elephants' vocalizations and associated behaviors in captivity are discussed in comparison to those of their free-living relatives and to those of other animals showing similarities across some of the sounds and behaviors.

Zusammenfassung

10 charakteristische Lautäußerungen spielen eine bedeutende Rolle im Kommunikationssystem afrikanischer Elefanten. Obwohl 9 Vokalisationen in mehr als einem Kontext benutzt werden, haben viele einen besonderen Bezug zu spezifischem Verhalten. Die Hauptfrequenz der Laute korreliert signifikant mit dem Erregungsgrad des Elefanten: tiefe Frequenzen entsprechen geringem Erregungsgrad und spielen eine Rolle bei Gruppenzusammenhalt und normalem Zusammenleben. Höhere Frequenzen zeigen höhere Erregung an und treten meist während aggressiver Verhaltensweisen auf. Vokalisationen und die begleitenden Verhaltensweisen werden von gefangengehaltenen Tieren beschrieben und mit denen freilebender Elefanten und anderer Tiere verglichen, die ähnliche Verhaltensweisen und Vokalisationen haben.