In tourist footage recently shot in South Africa’s Ingwelala Nature Reserve, a mother elephant loudly defends her calf from a horde of African wild dogs.
At first glance, the situation seemed dire: The mother, her calf, and another elephant, surrounded by a pack of more than 14 wild dogs, which hunt in cooperative bands.
But the brilliant social creatures' capacity for communication gave them the upper hand against would-be predators. When under duress, elephants make guttural, trumpeting calls that startled the wild dogs, says Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, a Stanford University expert on elephant behavior. (Also see "Watch: How Did a Young Elephant Drive Off 14 Lions?")
These unsettling roars do more than dissuade the predators, notes O'Connell-Rodwell, a National Geographic grantee who has observed elephants put up similar fights against