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Trunk in cheek, elephant mimics Korean

Novel posture lets animal approximate sounds of human words

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An Asian elephant has learned to mimic five words in Korean, creating a humanlike tone by sticking its trunk into its mouth.

This is the first systematically studied case of an elephant mimicking human speech, says bioacoustician Angela Stoeger at the University of Vienna. The male elephant, called Koshik and housed in a Korean zoo, makes sounds close in pitch to human language and reminds Korean speakers of actual words, Stoeger and her colleagues report in the Nov. 20 Current Biology.

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