South Korea: Scientists study talking elephant

Published:  08:50 Thursday - December 02, 2010 We head to South Korea where an elephant is attracting worldwide attention for its ability to talk. Zoo officials say "Kosik" the elephant can vocalize at least seven words in Korean.


South Korea: Scientists study talking elephant

Twenty-year-old Kosik may be living proof that an elephant never forgets. According to his keepers at the Everland theme park in Yong-in, Kosik has remembered and can vocalize at least seven words in Korean, words such as "hi" and "lie down" or "good".Scientists like Dr Daniel Mietchen from the University of Jena in Germany want to know more and they've come to the zoo to see what makes Kosik tick or talk.

Zoo keeper Kim Jong-Gap, plays with 16 year old male Asian elephant
Kosik at the Everland amusement park on September 14, 2006 in Yongin,
South Korea. Kosik can imitate up to eight Korean words, including
'no,' 'yes,' and 'lie down' according to officials at Everland
amusement park.

Dr. Daniel Mietchen, University of JENA, said, "As far as we know Kosik is the only living elephant capable of this, but there are other elephants imitated other sounds like sounds of truck or other elephants."

The scientists say that through Kosik, they might be able to prove that elephants are capable of learning language, although they say it's unlikely he understands the meaning of the words he expresses. According to his keeper, Kim Jong-kap, Kosik's pronunciation has improved a great deal since 2006, when Kim first heard him.

Kim Jong-Kap, Elephant Trainer, said, "At first, he had made a simple sound, not some specific word. However, as time went by, he was vocalizing some words accurately."

For zoo visitors, Kosik is a huge attraction in more ways than one. And for the scientists, the work ahead could break new ground...just as long as they can keep Kosik talking.

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