A late beluga whale named NOC recently charmed the nation when researchers in California revealed that he could mimic human speech. Now comes word of an Asian elephant named Koshik who can “talk” to his trainer.
Koshik can parrot exactly five words: the Korean expressions for “hello,” “sit down,” “no” “lie down,” and “good.” Listen above to hear him attempt “annyong,” or “hello.”
The gifted elephant pulls off his rare feat by placing his trunk in his mouth, a method that made it difficult for researchers to tell exactly how he does it. They were most impressed that he can match both human pitch and timbre, given that he has no lips and giant vocal chords.
Koshik is not the first elephant to mimic humans, but the study says he spent his social formative years with humans and no other elephants—possibly explaining why he developed his peculiar habit.