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Animal "Speech" Project Aims to Decode Critter Communication
Maryann Mott for National Geographic News
September 26, 2006
The fictional children's book character Dr. Dolittle easily understood animal chatter. But for the rest of us, the meaning behind creatures' clucks, rumbles, and whistles remains a mystery.

Now, researchers from several universities and institutions are working on an effort called the Dr. Dolittle Project, which aims to crack the code of animal communication.

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Their work could help people gain a better understanding of animal behavior and hopefully allow researchers to improve care for wild and captive animal populations.

"For centuries humans have tried to teach animals to communicate like humans," said Michael Darre, an animal science professor at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in Storrs.

"And now we're getting to the point where we're saying, Wait a second. Why don't we learn their language instead of making them learn ours?"

(Related feature: "Calls in the Wild" in National Geographic magazine.)

Elephant Talk

In the past three years researchers with the project have captured sounds from a variety of animals, including African…