Forest Elephants Studied On Audio, Video

Reveals Signals Between Mothers, Young

Video and audio devices have captured never-before-seen — or heard — footage of forest elephants in central Africa. Peter H. Wrege, director of the Elephant Listening Project at Cornell University, used new technology to record more than 300,000 hours of audio that he gathered over three years.

forest elephant conservation
Saving the forest elephant will require a variety of strategies, including habitat preservation.

Wrege and his team placed microphones in trees that recorded audio for six months at a time, and the microphones captured 30,000 hours of forest elephant calls.

Forest elephants are a third distinct species of elephant that researchers only confirmed in 2010.

The focus of Wrege’s research are the ultra-low frequency rumbles female elephants make when communicating with their young.

In addition to these audio recordings, Wrege also used an infrared camera to capture rare footage of elephant interactions.

Through this video, he saw that elephants have learned to enter clearings at night when poachers are less likely to be active.

He also recorded footage of elephants mating and the social interactions that take place afterward when other females rush around the one who just mated.

Sounds of the forest

Wrege found that his microphones also picked up the sounds of gunshots and poachers butchering forest elephants for ivory. The poaching of forest elephants is a serious threat to the species’ survival. Africa was once home to an estimated 1 million of the animals, but today that number has dropped to below 100,000.

Wrege hopes the technology he’s using could one day be used as a real-time poaching alarm. Although cameras and microphones would do little to prevent a poaching attack from occurring, they could alert authorities when attacks happen, enabling them to apprehend the poachers. Such a system could help deter poachers.

climate change and deforestation


Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information