Elephant Talk: The Surprising Science of Elephant Communication

Elephant Talk: The Surprising Science of Elephant Communication by Ann Downer is a comprehensive look at elephant social behavior, including a detailed overview of exciting recent findings about how elephants communicate. This book has been nominated for a Cybils award in the MG/YA nonfiction category

In the first chapter Downer explores many aspects of elephant biology, laying a firm foundation for the chapters on elephant communication that follow. She discusses the three species of elephant found in the world today, the African, Asian and forest elephants, as well as their distribution.

Once the groundwork is laid, she reveals many amazing new scientific findings. Did you know that elephants regularly make sounds that humans can’t hear? Did you know that elephants can “talk” to one another via their feet? How about that some “chirp” and other “shake hands”? It turns out that elephants are incredibly intelligent social creatures.

In one example not found in the book, a scientist tested elephants tendency to cooperate by creating a rigging that gives a reward of a banana snack only if two elephants work together to pull on ropes. An article in Wired Science discusses how one elephant not only learned to cooperate to get a snack, but it also learned a shortcut by standing on the rope instead of tugging it. Wow!

In the final chapter of her book, Downer examines some of the complex relationships between humans and elephants throughout the world. Although some of the facts are grim, there are reasons for hope that elephants will be able to survive to be a source of wonder for future generations.

Simply Science has another great review and several related links and activities.

This has been a good year for elephant books. We also reviewed The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson, and Beco’s Big Year:  A Baby Elephant Turns One by Linda Stanek with related activities at Growing With Science.

Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Library Binding: 112 pages
Publisher: Twenty First Century Books (January 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0761357661
ISBN-13: 978-0761357667

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