Lifestyle & Belief

Elephant 'speaks' Korean (VIDEO)


Trainer Kim Jong-Gap gives a treat to Koshik, a 22-year-old male Asian elephant at the Everland Zoo in Yongin, 49 kms (29 miles) south of Seoul on November 2, 2012. Researchers say that Koshik can imitate several Korean words using his nose, trunk and mouth, mimicing seven Korean words which are clearly understandable to visitors.



Koshik, a 22-year-old Asian elephant, has been using his trunk to create some unusual sounds... actual words in a human language.

The Associated Press reported that Koshik is able to tuck his trunk into his mouth and produce sounds that imitate the Korean words: "annyeong" (hello), "anja" (sit down), "aniya" (no), "nuwo" (lie down) and "joa" (good).

According to the study, published in the journal Current Biology, Koshik places the tip of his trunk into his mouth, transforming the natural low rumble into the imitation of a human voice, the BBC reported.

Researchers are not sure how Koshik learned the skill, but they think he picked up the words from his trainer of 19 years, Kim Jong-Gap, Agence France Presse reported.

CNN noted that Koshik was born in captivity in 1990, and did not have contact with other elephants from the age of 5 to 12.

"The only social bonds Koshik had made was with his trainer and we think he learned and imitated the words to form ties and trust with Kim," said Oh Suk-Hun, a veterinarian at Everland Zoo (Koshik's home) and a co-author of the research.

"Koshik is like my baby because I've trained him since he came here," trainer Kim told AFP. "I slept in a sleeping bag near Koshik for a month when I first started training him and I think that's why we became so close to the point where he started imitating my voice."

More on GlobalPost: China truck found loaded with 500 cats believed restaurant-bound

A team of international scientists confirmed the findings, though the researchers said there is no conclusive evidence that Koshik understands the sounds he makes.

"Researchers said the clearest scientific evidence that Koshik is deliberately imitating human speech is that the sound frequency of his words matches that of his trainers," said the AP.

The BBC noted that Koshik's "words" mean that elephants join the list of animals able to mimic humans, which includes parrots, mynah birds and sea lions.

Watch Koshik speak Korean, courtesy of CNN: