'Choa!': Asian elephant talks
November 2, 2012 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
- Koshik grabbed interest of elephant vocalization expert in Vienna, Austria
- He was born in captivity in 1990, transferred to Everland zoo a few years later
- The elephant can say Korean words for "hello," "no," "good"
Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- Korean is considered one of the hardest languages in the world to master, but an elephant in a South Korean zoo is making a good start.
Koshik, a 22-year-old Asian elephant has stunned experts and his keepers at Everland Zoo near Seoul by imitating human speech. Koshik can say the Korean words for "hello," "sit down," "no," "lie down" and "good." His trainer, Kim Jong Gap, first started to realize Koshik was mimicking him several years ago.
""In 2004 and 2005, Kim didn't even know that the human voice he heard at the zoo was actually from Koshik," zoo spokesman In Kim In Cherl said. "But in 2006, he started to realize that Koshik had been imitating his voice and mentioned it to his boss."
Why do elephants have hair on their heads?
His boss initially called him "crazy."
Koshik's remarkable antics grabbed the interest of an elephant vocalization expert thousands of kilometers away at the University of Vienna in Austria.
""There was a YouTube video about Koshik vocalizing, and I was not sure if it was a fake, or if it was real," Dr. Angela Stoeger-Horwath said. She traveled with fellow expert Dr. Daniel Mietchen to South Korea in 2010 to test the elephant's ability. They recorded Koshik repeating certain words his keeper said and then played them for native Korean speakers to see, if they were recognizable.
"It is, for some of the sounds he makes, quite astonishing for how similar they are," said Mietchen of the University of Jena in Germany. "For instance the word 'choa' (meaning good) -- if you hear it right after what the keeper says -- it's quite similar."
The findings have been published in the journal Current Biology this week and describe how Koshik places the tip of his trunk into his mouth to produce his convincing impression of a human voice.
Koshik was born in captivity in 1990 and was transferred to Everland Zoo a few years later. From the age of 5 to 12 there were no other elephants with Koshik at the zoo, and his only interaction was with humans. The researchers believe Koshik may have learned certain words out of necessity "to cement social bonds."
Koshik is expected to draw quite a crowd when the public sees him in the spring after construction at the zoo is completed.
Will elephants still roam earth in 20 years?
Journalist Soo Bin Park contributed to this report.
Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
Today's five most popular stories