We used vocal indicators to examine the effect of a translocation of an African elephant family herd within the Kruger National Park. These animals were moved 300 km from their home range, but returned unaided to this range within 23 days. We found that translocation resulted in a change in the mean fundamental frequency of low-frequency elephant vocalizations, known as rumbles. The rumbles increased significantly in pitch compared with pre-translocation levels during the 23 days the animals spent outside their normal home range. Mean fundamental frequency returned close to pre-translocation level by the time the animals had navigated their way back to their previous home range. Raised pitch is known to be an indicator of stress in humans and other animals. The observed acoustic results are consistent with a physiological measure of stress, faecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels, which were monitored from the same animals during the study and have already been reported elsewhere. To our knowledge, this is the first report of prolonged monitoring of vocal stress response in free-ranging animals. Measuring behavioural responses, such as vocalizations, may provide an objective non-invasive method for assessing stress. This could help in determining the effects that particular management actions might have on elephants.
infrasound, elephant, Loxodonta africana, vocalization, stress