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Saturday, November 3, 2012


An article this morning in the Star-Advertiser about Koshik, the 22-year old TALKING Asian elephant from South Korea, spurred me to devote my posting today about animals that speak like humans.  If, what I saw and heard is accurate, and I have no reason to suspect anything fishy, for an international team of specialist yesterday confirmed this ability, Koshik's voice is remarkably that of Korean male.  He places his trunk into his mouth to modulate sound.  Amazing and almost eerie.

We are familiar, of course, with Koko (short for Hanabiko, Japanese for July 4, her birthdate), the 41-year old lowland gorilla, who can communicate with sign language. Koko is the one in the middle.  She knows up to 2,000 English words and for 21 years now has lived in Woodside, California, at the Gorilla Foundation, with Ndume, a Silverback 10 years younger, who she picked from videos.  They are supposed to move to Maui "soon," for odds hopefully will improve in a tropical environment.  Her wish is to have a baby.  However, gorillas don't talk like us.

Chimps are said to be the smartest animal, and they do sign language.  But do they speak?  Yes, but not much.  The bonobo (to the left) is a particularly interesting ape.  They can  respond to us.  A case has been made for the second smartest, the dolphin.  Like apes and most other animals, they have their own language, and it is suspected that they talk to whales.

We've all heard of talking parrots.  Alex, the African Grey Parrot, could not only talk sensibly, but also read and spell.  He was bought in a pet shop by animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg, then at the University of Arizona, when he was one year old.  Alex is an acronym of Avian Language EXperiment, and later, Avian Learning EXperiment.  He died in 2007 at the age of 31.  Pepperberg proved that birds had sufficient brainpower to reason and use words creatively.

Then there is Kaleo, the talking mynah from Hawaii.  The Common Hill Mynah is one of many varieties, and seems most adept at vocalizations.  They mimic with clarity and accuracy.

Surprisingly, with so many of them around people, dogs do not fare well in this competition.  Here is Mishka, the Husky, who barely says "I love you."  Odie the pug does a better job on the David Letterman show.  He passed away four years ago, but can now be purchased as a clock.

There are more cat pets than dogs, 83 million to 78 million, but they are equally lacking.  Above are Tiggy (left), and Oh Long Johnson (right) is a tad more adept.

Add Hoover the talking seal from the New England Aquarium, who had a Bostonian accent.  Gef the Talking Mongoose could either be real, a hoax or a rock band.  You click on these links at your own peril.

This is getting ridiculous, so let me end as I started...with elephants.  There is Batyr, from a Kazakhstan zoo in the 70's and 80's.  I couldn't find any video proof, but he supposedly said "Batyr is good" and more than twenty words.  He must have been exceptional, for there is a stamp featuring him:

Finally, another clip of Koshik.


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