Scientists who have investigated an elephant’s reported talking skills say there is clear evidence that he can speak Korean.
The 22-year-old elephant, called Koshik, who grew up with only humans for company, knows five words.
When filmed at the Everland Zoo in Yongin, near Seoul, he managed only one: “choah” which means “good”. His keeper explained his unchatty behaviour by saying Koshik does not want to say anything while strangers are around.
The other words he has mastered are the Korean for “hello”, “no”, “sit down” and “lie down”.
“This research shows Koshik obviously learned and imitated human speech to establish a relationship with his keepers,” said Sukhun Oh, a co-researcher, at Everland.
“To create these very accurate imitations of speech formant frequencies, this elephant places his trunk inside this mouth, modulating the shape of the vocal tract during controlled phonation”, the scientists report said.
Researcher Dr Angela Stoeger said Koshik’s ability to imitate human speech provided an important basis to study the evolutionary and biological angles for learning human speech ability.