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Elephant in South Korean zoo imitates human speech

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Scientists say an elephant in a South Korean zoo uses his trunk to pick up not only food but also human vocabulary.

An international team of researchers says Koshik can reproduce five Korean words by tucking his trunk inside his mouth and modulating the sound coming from his throat. The discovery was reported online Friday in Current Biology.

Koshik can say “annyeong” (hello), “anja” (sit down), “aniya” (no), “nuwo” (lie down) and “joa” (good).

Researchers believe the Asian elephant with two tusks learned to speak out of a desire to bond with his trainers after he was separated from two other elephants.

In 1983, zoo officials in Kazakhstan claimed their elephant could reproduce Russian. But there was no scientific study.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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