Review: Tariq Khan on…campaign to save the elephant

elephantDid you know that elephants continue to be in danger of extinction? There were over 10 million African elephants in the early 20th century, but by 2025 scientists predict there could only be 190,000 left.
How do I know this and what does this have to do with a marketing? Well the answer to both questions comes with the launch of a new website that, for the first time, helps you translate human words and emotions into a form of elephant communication.
Developed by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and ElephantVoices, the ‘Hello in Elephant’ website allows people to send messages to friends, translating human phrases into elephant calls. By using voice, text, or emoji, you can see a video of an elephant communicating the same greeting or emotion back to them, which can then be shared with others.
By typing “hello,” for example, the translation includes an elephant call used to greet one another. Saying “I love you” will play an elephant call used to express affection.
The new website – which launched on World Elephant Day – aims to raise awareness and funds for the elephants’ plight by using 40 years of research around elephant communication and behaviour in a fun and accessible way.
Does it work? Well when I tried initiating a discussion with Nellie at the local zoo I was met with a mixture of indifference and disdain. Was this down to the website or the fact there just wasn’t a spark between us? You decide. Ultimately this campaign is about the welfare of the elephants rather than setting up a conversation and to that end it does a great job.
tariq khanInterestingly, while the technology behind this particular website is quite straightforward the concept of talking to animals might not be as far away we once thought. Amazon has recently released a report predicting we will be using technology to talk to our pets within 10 years through advances in machine learning and algorithmic data gathering.
With a 9.5 million reduction in the African elephant population coming through poaching and habitat loss, I imagine that if we ever do truly converse with animals we might not like what they have to say about us.

Tariq Khan is director of interactive at TMW Unlimited

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