An Irish-American scientist reveals how elephants use their feet and trunks to communicate.
By Christina Park
Sunday February 17 2008
ELEPHANTS can stand on tiptoe -- they can run on tiptoe and hardly make a sound. And they can use their sensitive feet to hear through the ground. You would think such behaviour would have drawn attention before but, as the writer Henry David Thoreau (quoted in this book) points out, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see".
And Irish-American scientist Dr Caitlin O'Connell, author of The Elephant's Secret Sense, has a keen eye.
Employed in 1992 by the Namibian government to study elephant behaviour, with a view to keeping marauding animals away from farmers' crops, O'Connell soon noticed odd goings-on at a waterhole in Etosha National Park. Elephants would often freeze in tandem, face in one direction and lift one front foot to stand on tiptoe. This ritual always preceded the arrival of another animal or herd. It was as if, O'Connell thought, they were listening through their feet.
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