I am back for another installment of elephant sounds 101 and we are still working our way through how elephants respond to predators. Since humans are the most dangerous predator an elephant has to face, I have been on the sharp end of some of these reactions, though these frightening assaults have almost all been in places other than Amboseli. If you visit the visual tactile database on our website, and search under the word “bunching”, you can read in more detail how after freezing and perhaps “commenting”, the first response to potential danger by members of a family group is to gather together or “bunch”. Once elephants have bunched together, older individuals at the fore and calves occupying the center, one or more larger individuals may charge the predator while emitting the trumpet blasts or roars that I have already described. Throughout a confrontation with a dangerous predator the bunched elephants may continue to vocalize with noisy, throaty, rolling rumbles, their heads raised, ears extended, temporal glands streaming and trunks reaching out to touch one another. These rumbles have a roaring quality and appear to have the effect of both intimidating the predator and calling in support from any more distant family members. I refer to the powerful noisy rumbles given in this context as roaring-rumbles.
I recorded a lovely example of roaring rumbles in Amboseli one day when I happened to witness a lion pounce upon a year old elephant calf. The calf screamed, which prompted an immediate response from its mother and other allies, who rushed to the calves side, and confronted the lion with a series of roaring-rumbles. The calls attracted the attention of other family members who responded by calling and arriving at the scene minutes later.
Bunched elephants confront a predator.