Zoo Staff Determines Elephant Can Speak Korean

As strange as it sounds, according to a recent release from National Geographic, there is an elephant named Koshik who actually speaks Korean.

Six years ago the staff of Korea’s Everland Zoo knew something was up when Koshik, an Asian elephant, kept putting his trunk in his mouth and mimicking what appeared to be Korean words.

After sending the footage of Koshik off to researchers who specialize in speaking elephants (yes, that job exists), six years later it appears that Koshik, does, in fact, have a six-word Korean vocabulary which is believed to be derived from mimicking his trainers.

As if a Korean speaking elephant wasn’t strange enough, researchers explain that somehow Koshik has found a way to “Macgyver his vocal tract” (when was the last time you said that?) by placing the tip of his trunk in his mouth to accommodate for the fact that elephants don’t have the proper cheek and lip structure to make an “o” sound.

In the associated video, which goes along with the post, Koshik can clearly be seen curling his trunk up into his mouth while reciting the Korean words for “hello,” “no,” “good” and “sit down.”

The article states that what is apparently most important in the development of speaking animals is that the animal have a strong social relationship with its trainers or owners. Allegedly, there was once a beluga whale in San Diego, which could mimic the conversations of its trainers, and Koshik similarly has been raised almost exclusively by Korean zoo staff.

Other than a parrot, have you ever heard of other animals speaking to humans?

[Photo Credit: Heather Ellison]