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CNN Today

Call of the Wild

Aired March 15, 2000 - 2:48 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: If you have been to the zoo, you have probably heard the noise an elephant makes. To us, it sounds a bit like a trumpet.

But as CNN's Ann Kellan reports, to the elephants, it sounds like language.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): African forest elephants live in jungles and have a language all their own to comfort their young or to protect them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you hear these calls you know that there's going to be a mating event.

KELLAN: While studying elephants, Katy Payne (ph) discovered a similarity between these giant mammals and whales. Both communicate with low-frequency moans, called infrasound, that can travel for miles.

Payne has spent years listening to elephants in zoos and now plans to set up special microphones in jungles to eavesdrop on the elephants there. Without seeing them, researchers can here the difference between male and female elephants.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Female groups often make calls that are overlapping; males, on the other hand, get into trumpeting matches.

KELLAN: By recording sounds over time, Payne hopes to learn more about these threatened forest elephants, where they go when their habitats are taken over by faming and development, and how many are killed by poachers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we're very worried about the impact of a recent major sale of ivory, which suggests that the ivory trade might reopen. If it did, what would happen to populations of elephants we don't even know anything about?

Mass killing in a society like that of elephants is very much the way it is for people; it leaves survivors who are heartbroken and damaged by the experience.

KELLAN: Though a microphone won't stop poachers, it will pick up the sound of gunshots fired and even warn farmers when elephant groups are moving toward crops.

Ann Kellan, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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