Do Baby Elephants Really Sound Like Dumbo?

Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
Is there anything on this planet that’s cuter than a baby elephant? When making Dumbo, Tim Burton's animation team must have known they couldn't mess with the already beloved real thing (other than making those giant ears and having him fly, that is). But when watching Dumbo, the little guy sounds like a cross between a dolphin and a puppy with all his squeaks and squeals, and it'd be understandable to wonder if Burton and his team had actually taken too much liberty with zoological facts.
We are all familiar with the stereotypical elephant sound — the call that sounds like someone just learning how to play the trumpet. Dumbo's distressed mother makes a noise like that, and he answers here with a tiny, sad toot of his own, along with a few emotion-filled squeaks (see the clip below). But elephants are intelligent, social animals, so it stands to reason that they make other sounds too. There are little chirps and squeaks that Asian elephants make, possibly as a quieter means to relay news or lend support, according to elephant rescue foundation Elemotion. Dumbo makes sounds similar to that, though the filmmakers seem to have made his voice a little softer and more puppy-like, just to pull at our heartstrings that much more.
Grown elephants have even more in their vocabulary. They have a fearsome roar, which means exactly what you think it does. More fascinating is elephants' low rumble. Scientists have discovered that they can use infrasonic rumbles (at frequencies below the human hearing range) to communicate for very long distances.
Yes, yes, that's interesting, and everything, but we're really here for the babies. Unlike so many other animals, elephants' developmental stages line up similarly to humans: Calves for about two years (after a 22 month gestation period), and they stay with their mothers until they're teenagers. In the wild, elephant cows raise their calves in a communal setting with other cows. In addition to all that rumbling, they tend to touch each other a lot.
That makes it especially heartbreaking to think of the elephants that are orphaned as a result of human evils. To make yourself feel just a tiny bit better, watch the videos of rescued orphan elephants at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. (Better yet, you can even "adopt" the little guys.) After getting round-the-clock care for years, the elephants get gradually reintroduced to the wild.
You might still need cheering up, and I have the solution: a clumsy baby elephant montage. Even though they can walk right away, they're a lot like toddlers still figuring out how to coordinate all their limbs and their trunks — something Dumbo, who trips over his giant ears immediately in the movie, can probably relate to.

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