Elephant-size Steps
Ahmed - recently returned © Andrea Turkalo / Elephant Listening Project


Elephant Listening Project

April 2016

Elephant-size Steps at ELP

Late last year the Lab received a very generous gift that the Lab Director decided to focus on ELP and two other programs in the BioAcoustics Research Program. This is enabling ELP to bring in a new, fantastic post doc, Daniela Hedwig, who will join us in July! This should go a long way in helping us to increase our efforts for forest elephants in Central Africa. We know our technology and approach do what they are designed to do, but I feel that we have barely begun what is needed if we are to have an effective influence on the survival of forest elephants. With still a vast expanse of suitable habitat and still so little known about the movements, needs, and population size of these amazing animals, we need to be operating at a much larger scale.

You are all aware of how critical I think it is to develop the skills of local biologists and field technicians, and our generous donor is particularly keen about this aspect of our work as well. If we are to massively expand the areas that we monitor, we need local teams of experts to carry the projects forward and we need to get volunteers from around the world to help us find the elephants (and the gunshots) in our sound recordings. As I write, Liz Rowland is on her way to Gabon to run a second training workshop on sound analysis.  The Cameroonian team we helped to train is doing a fantastic job of continuing the acoustic monitoring in Korup National Park, and the new post doc and I will be establishing another team in Congo in the months ahead.

Renewal at Dzanga Bai

In spite of continued political difficulties in the Central African Republic, Andrea Turkalo says that activities at the bai are as captivating as ever. Now that she has been back at work on the platform for 18 months, most of her families and old male friends have been seen, new babies identified, and, sadly,  loses recorded.

But not long ago Ahmed, the huge male pictured above, sauntered into the clearing in the state of musth. Andrea was so excited, having not seen this guy for nearly ten years - where had he been wandering all this time? One of the biggest, and at 65 years old one of the oldest males in her population, he was first identified in 1991. For ten years he came to the bai every year around Xmas, stayed a week or so, then was off. In the early 2000s his life must have changed and Andrea saw him only sporadically until, in 2006, he disappeared. Now he's back - big, bulky, huge tusks, and apparently wise. To the east, savannah elephants of this age are rare to entirely absent, but we are fortunate that big bulls are still hanging on in Central Africa. 

Spring is coming to the U.S. and the rainy season to Central Africa. The rainforest is breathing a sigh of relief, greening up with new growth and, although mostly invisible to us, forest elephants are on the move to newly fruiting trees and flooded forests along their network of trails. May they have a good year! 

Peter H. Wrege,
Director, Elephant Listening Project.
The Elephant Listening Project is dedicated to the study and conservation of elephants, with a focus on the forest elephants of Central Africa. Visit the project's website at

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