Sounds of Safari

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With around 100 animal species at Wildlife Safari, you are sure to encounter some unique sights and sounds when you visit! From elephants and big cats to primates and birds of all sizes, each of our animals has their own ways of communicating that may seem strange at first. Here’s a list to help you identify some of the more surprising sounds you might hear while exploring the Safari!

Cheetah: Chirp – Khayam, one of Wildlife Safari’s ambassador cheetahs

cheetah chirp

One sound you may hear in our Cheetah Drive-Through is a loud, bird-like chirp. Do not be fooled though – it may actually be a cheetah! Cheetahs have over 30 different vocalizations, including chirps, stutters, growls, meows, yowls, hisses, purrs, and more. Their loud chirp can be heard from a mile away and is often used as a call between family members; such as a mother and her cubs. If a mother cheetah is trying to locate her cubs in the tall grasses of the African savannah it is useful for them to sound like birds so they are disguised from any nearby predators looking for a snack!

Elephant: Rumble – George, one of our African elephants

Elephant rumble

Aside from the noisy trumpet blasts, roars, and snorts elephants are known for, low-frequency vocalizations like rumbles actually make up a pretty large part of elephants’ communication. Rumbles can have many different meanings and uses such as greeting, bonding, threatening, soliciting a mate, soothing, or coordinating group movement. These sounds may be a bit more difficult to detect though, since many elephant rumbles are too low for us to hear! Elephants often use infrasound (sound with frequencies below 20 Hz; the lower limit of human hearing) because it travels well through dense underbrush and across long distances.

Lion: Caroling – Upepo, one of our two and a half year old lions

lion caroling

Some of the loudest animals at Wildlife Safari are the lions. Lions have the loudest roar of any big cat and can be heard from 5 miles away! In the mornings and evenings we often hear our lions ‘caroling,’ which is when they all roar together as a group. It is similar to a roll call, with one lion starting and all the others eventually joining in. Lions can identify each other’s voices within their chorus.  This makes it a good way for the pride to communicate and figure out where everyone is.

Maned Wolf: Roar-Bark – Sabara, our female maned wolf 

roar bark

Native to South America, maned wolves are not actually wolves at all, and are not closely related to any other canid species. One of their most unique features is a vocalization known as the ‘roar-bark.’ It sounds nothing like the howls you may hear from a wolf, coyote, or your own pet dog, and instead sounds, as you may expect: a cross between a roar and a bark! A maned wolf’s roar-bark is loud and clear and can carry over long distances, and is most likely used for marking their territory.

Red Ruffed Lemur: Mob Roar – Leland, one of our red ruffed lemurs enjoying a delicious watermelon

mob roar

One sound that might surprise you is the ‘mob roar’ from our red ruffed lemurs! Ruffed lemurs have a wide range of unique vocalizations such as the roar/shriek, mob roar, pulsed squawk, wail, bray, quack, growl, growl-snort, chatter, whine, grunt, huff, mew, cough, grumble, squeak, and squeal, and each has a distinct meaning. The mob roar usually consists of a repeated low roar with occasional high chatters, and is used for group coordination and spacing. Even though these lemurs aren’t very big, they definitely make a huge noise!

Sumatran Tiger: Chuff – Riya, one of our beautiful Sumatran tigers

Tiger Chuff

Tigers are part of the big cat family, which means they can roar like a lion, but one of the quietest sounds they can make is a chuff. This sound is usually a friendly way for tigers to say hello, and our tiger sisters Riya and Kemala often chuff to each other in greeting. They make this noise by keeping their mouth closed while exhaling through their nose. It’s not very loud, but you might hear it if you are lucky!

White-cheeked Gibbon: Duet – Benny (blonde) and Mel (black with white cheeks), our white cheeked gibbon pair

White cheeked gibbon duet

The white-cheeked gibbon duet is one of the most complex calls you will hear at the park, if you visit early enough in the morning to hear it! Gibbon pairs, like our own Benny and Mel, sing this complicated duet every morning to establish their territory and let other pairs know where they are. The duet is made up of two parts: rising notes sung by the female that start slow but increase in speed, followed by a series of modulating and staccato notes sung by the male. Young white-cheeked gibbons typically learn the duet from their parents by copying the female’s song until they reach maturity, at which point males will switch to the male’s part of the duet.

Now that you are familiar with some of the unique sounds of the animals at Wildlife Safari, see how many you can hear the next time you visit!

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Carols – Not Just For Christmas

Carnivores, Creature Feature

Even if you’ve never heard one, you probably know that their characteristic roar. However, lions also make a variety of other sounds and vocalizations including calls that we refer to as caroling. Now before you start picturing a lion choir, caroling is a lot less melodic than the Christmas carols we hear at this time of year.

For lions, caroling is the biggest noise they can make. They use their diaphragm to force the sound out and the resulting roar can travel for miles around. Lions carol for a few reasons, both inside the pride and to outsiders. Males carol to communicate to other, roaming males that may be passing their territory, to warn them to stay away. Members of the same pride also carol to communicate to each other while hunting, when they may be some distance away from each other.

Tsavo and Enzie

Tsavo and Enzie, Our adult male lions – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

“Lions have a unique voice,” says Bednarz, “so when they carol they can actually tell each other apart.” They can even recognize how many voices are caroling, so approaching males will judge by the number of competitors whether they want to challenge them or steer clear.

Enzi – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

One of the little cubs – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Wildlife Safari’s lion pride has ten voices to join in with caroling this year, with two litters of cubs (two 10-month old cubs and four 6-month old cubs). Jordan Berdnarz, Lead Carnivore Keeper and Primary Trainer for the adult lions, has been with these particular lions since they first came to the park. Bednarz says these cubs are important for a variety of reasons, firstly, because they are extremely genetically valuable for conservation purposes within the captive population. Closer to home, though, these cubs are tremendously important to Wildlife Safari as our first lion cubs born in 23 years. “These litters are really special to us,” says Bednarz.

As Christmas approaches, keepers wait in anticipation of giving our lion pride some wonderful holiday themed enrichment… Christmas trees!  After Christmas, as the decorations start coming down, Wildlife Safari accepts donated Christmas trees which we give to our animals. All across the park the animals love these strange, tall toys. “Our lions absolutely love them!” Says Bednarz. “Especially our males.” Even old trees that are long past their prime are much enjoyed by the lions all year long, and as the cub’s first Christmas, keepers eagerly await their reaction to their first Christmas tree!

“Any first for the cubs is really fun,” says Bednarz. “They’re very curious.”

Lion cubs at Wildlife Safari playing with their tug-o-war rope – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

So if you feel like you need an extra boost of Christmas cheer, come visit and see our caroling pride get into the Christmas spirit!

Mama lions and all the kids – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow