Heard the tail end of an interesting segment on the radio just as I was about to get out of the car. It was about elephants and how much more active they are at night than in the daytime, but no one knew that because they hadn’t observed elephants at night before. So when they started doing so, they were surprised at all the stuff that was going on at night. I looked it up afterwards, and there is a lot of information about elephant-recording projects (since they’re active at night, researchers are interested in collecting noises to understand how they communicate through sound when it’s too dark to see, and possibly suss out what different types of noises mean). I found this transcript of an interview and thought it was great in text form, although the audio version is of course interesting as well, as you can actually hear the different (soundbite of elephant trumpeting) noises.

Ms. PAYNE: We were trying to design a way of using sounds to figure out how many elephants are present and what they’re up to. When they come into the clearing they come in by twos and threes. The males mostly separate, the females mostly in groups with their calves, their mothers, their aunts, their great aunts, their grandmothers – that sort of a matriarchal grouping.

(Soundbite of elephant)

Ms. PAYNE: That’s an elephant with her trunk down in a well that she’s dug getting some water in the end of the trunk.

(Soundbite of elephant)

Ms. PAYNE: Splashing it out, snorting, almost sneeze or cough.

(Soundbite of elephant trumpeting)

Ms. PAYNE: That’s a calf going ahooga. We called that call the ahooga and only juveniles make that call. They usually make it when they’re being weaned and they’re complaining, they’re protesting.

(Soundbite of elephant trumpeting)

Ms. PAYNE: They want the mother to give them milk.

(Soundbite of elephant trumpeting)

Ms. PAYNE: I think it’s mom, oh mom, where are you?

(Soundbite of elephant trumpeting)

Ms. PAYNE: And then I’m lost, I’m lost, where are you, where are you?

(Soundbite of elephant trumpeting)

Ms. PAYNE: All of these are modulated by emotion. When we give a slide show or show people what these elephants look like, at the end we turn off the lights and say, now just listen. And when we turn the lights back on tears are flowing down peoples cheeks.

There’s also one researcher’s log of her experiences recording elephants here.


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