General News

We are posting the speech by Professor Edward O. Wilson at the Opening of Laboratory of Biodiversity of Gorongosa in deep respect for Greg Carr, the Mozambiquen Government and the whole team of people working to protect Gorongosa National Park. The long-term, holistic approach taken by the Gorongosa Team working to restore an amazingly biodiverse ecosystem is admireable from many perspectives - and provides a model for other priceless habitats and species. What we will learn from Gorongosa may have an impact far and beyond, well symbolised through the Laboratory of Biodiversity just opened. 

We, admittedly, wish we were in Gorongosa for this milestone - and we really look forward to continue our elephant work there later in the year. We are proud to be part of the Gorongosa Team.

Joyce and Petter


A WINDOW ON ETERNITY

Edward O. Wilson

The development of these wonderful facilities, along with the earlier inclusion of Gorongosa Mountain into the park and the rebuilding of the megafauna back to its pre-war strength, has been made a reality by Greg Carr and the government of Mozambique. It represents an advance not only in this country and Africa but the entire global environmental movement.

Edward O. Wilson examines an orb weaver spider web while collecting insects in Gorongosa National Park. (©Bob Poole)In essence, what it has achieved is to give a broader role in the global movement to the world’s nature parks and other natural history reserves. This development will help bring life back to humanity’s environmental conscience. Why do I put it this way? The world is becoming green. Environmental awareness has grown dramatically during the past several decades. However, the focus has fallen increasingly on the non-living part of the world, in other words on climate change, pollution, and the exhaustion of irreplaceable resources. At the same time attention has slipped away from the living part of Earth, called the biosphere, a layer of living organisms so thin it cannot be seen from the side by an orbiting space vehicle in orbit. The biosphere still has plenty of biomass, in other words the sheer weight of living tissue. Most of it is in the farms and timberlands that sustain the human species. What is declining is biodiversity, the variation of living organisms. Biodiversity exists at three levels: first, the ecosystems such as the lakes, streams, savanna, and dry forests of the Rift Valley and Cheringoma Plateau; then the species of plants, animals, and microorganisms that make up the ecosystems; and finally the genes that prescribe the traits that distinguish the species that make up the ecosystems. National Parks like Gorongosa play a major role in preserving the world’s biodiversity, and now, increasingly, by learning how to save it everywhere around the world.

How much biodiversity exists? To date two million species of plants, animals, and microorganisms have been discovered and given descriptions and formal names by biologists. Estimates, however, place the actual number at closer to ten million. When bacteria and other microbes are added, the number will soar much higher. Humanity, to put the matter as simply as possible, lives on a little known planet. We lack a sound idea of what our activities are doing to it.

This brings me to another important point relevant to this park. Gorongosa is so far, I believe, the only park in Africa, and one of only several in the entire world, to undertake a complete study to discover and identify all of the species of plants, animals, and microbes that make up its biodiversity—not just the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes, and vegetation, but all of the insects, spiders, and other invertebrates as well. This project, led by Piotr Naskrecki, and utilizing the expertise of Marc Stalmans, has already turned up many new species, especially of insects. As it expands, the number of animal and plant species is bound to increase dramatically. As a comparison, consider the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the United States, where a similar effort has brought to light approximately 18,000 species.

We should learn as much as we can about these smaller creatures that I like to call “the little things that run the world.” Elephants, lions, and other mammals of course play vital roles in the ecology of Gorongosa, but they live upon a living platform of other, usually neglected plants and animals. I strongly believe that we should extend the term “wildlife” to cover all of the animals, large and small, that make up the ecosystems.

There is so much to learn for scientists and amateur naturalists at Gorongosa National Park of ecology, physiology, and other aspects of biology, and the physical environment of the park as well. This is an ideal place to pioneer the concept of nature parks throughout the world as centers for research and education. The center will be an asset not just for visitors but increasingly in time, of great value to the people of Mozambique. I’m proud to be a part of it, and I congratulate those who have created the center and now are set to make it an example for the rest of the world to follow.

Read more on Blog da Gorongosa - Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Lab Opens.

Elephants need YOUR help. Each one of us can make a difference, whether we're talking about wild elephants living where they belong or wild elephants in captivity. Below you'll find some suggestions and ideas - your involvement is vital.

1. Spread the word - ACT NOW!

You can contribute towards a kinder future for elephants by writing letters, opinion pieces or Op-Eds to your local newspaper, by getting a journalist interested in the plight of the elephants or your near by captive elephant(s), by blogging, by signing a petition or by communicating with decisionmakers directly. Still at school? Write a report, an essay or a poem about elephants, and share it when your teacher has seen it. Shoot a video clip and publish your public service announcement (PSA) or message via YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo or other social networks. Do a search to find out how to create an efficient PSA. Create a poster, artwork or an animation - a good one could go viral really fast. Please write to us about it - we may post your work on ElephantVoices on Facebook. You'll find lots of important issues to cover below. And if you need sound science-based arguments - look around here on ElephantVoices.

You will do elephants and ElephantVoices a big favour if you share your interest in elephants and our work with your friends, whether in person or via social networks. Visit us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and invite your friends to do the same! You are of course very welcome to refer to or link ElephantVoices content.

It is a big challenge to attract and convince those who may not know enough to realize that most elephants in captivity are living a life in misery - and that elephants in the wild need protection - we need your help to change our collective conscience! You'll find most arguments related to Elephants in Captivity here on ElephantVoices and via The Elephant Charter - thank you for caring!

2. Help us stop the ivory trade and poaching - never buy or sell ivory!

Elephants are in serious trouble, and for many populations time is running out. Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed annually to supply a booming illegal trade in ivory, partly due to previous misguided decisions by CITES. If people stopped buying the killing would stop. Express your view to others that only elephants should wear ivory and that there should be no trade in it anywhere. Animation by ElephantVoicesThis is even more important if you have influential friends or contacts in relevant decision-making positions! Feel free to use the animated message to the right on your own blog, just "Save Image As...". And please share our campaign and use and spread the artwork launched in February 2013 - YOU can make a difference! Every Tusk Costs a Life!

Most nations (169) are signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, and every two and a half years when the Convention meets, the topic of whether to allow the sale of elephant products (mainly ivory) seem to come up for discussion. Visit Elephants killed for ivory if you want to know more. The last CITES meeting of the Parties, CoP16, took place in Thailand in March 2013, the next (CoP17) is in South Africa in 2016. Get in touch with your country’s representatives at CITES and tell them that no more sales must be allowed - you'll find contact information through this page! You may find other ideas about how to help under point 1 above.

3. Support elephant conservation efforts - it is much needed!

Another way to help elephants is to give your support to those institutions, organisations, projects and individuals who work to better understand, conserve and protect elephants, whether this be through applied conservation, education, advocacy or basic research. The Internet is a good source of information on the types of projects that are being undertaken across Africa and Asia.

Many organisations provide facilities to donate online, including ElephantVoices. Every little bit counts. If everyone who cared gave just $10 a month to their favourite elephant charity, think what a difference it could make.

4. Be an eco-tourist

Finding ways for people and free-ranging elephants to live in harmony is a major challenge. Positive attitudes toward the presence of elephants is more likely where local communities benefit through tourism. This is partly what ElephantVoices' initiative Elephant Partners in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is about.

In this context eco-tourism based on proper respect for nature and local culture can be an important contributor toward the conservation of elephants and other wildlife, and ecosystems as a whole.

5. Don't attend circuses that exhibit elephants (or other animals, for that matter)

You can make life better for abused individuals by boycotting circuses with elephants, and by appealing to others to do the same. The nature of circuses creates an unbearable setting for animals in general and for elephants in particular.

You may want to visit ElephantVoices' section about Elephants in Captivity, or directly go to Elephants in circuses.

6. Don't go on an elephant-back safari

Elephant-back safaris often rely on capturing elephants from the wild which involves the brutal abduction of a juvenile or calf from its family. Training elephants to do what its handlers want, when they want it - means the use of a sharp bullhook and other instruments inflicting pain as well as long periods of chaining.

By riding on an elephants back you are supporting this trade. Some may believe that elephants available for rides enjoy what they are doing, but in reality this is a brutal business based on unacceptable methods and abuse. Read more here.

7. Support efforts that will improve the lives of elephants in zoos

The vast majority of captive elephants experience circumstances far below what they need to live a decent life. Fortunately, more and more people are aware that this is so, and are challenging the status quo. As a result, we are beginning to feel the "winds of change". Some debates are so heated that the elephants may feel the rumblings, too!

The zoo industry is questioning age-old practices and exploring new ways to allow elephants to be elephants. Zoos have a very long way to go, however, and you can make a difference by encouraging them not to keep elephants where cold winters necessitate that they be indoors, where there is insufficient space to allow elephants to live in social groups, and where the management style relies on bullhooks and chaining. We appreciate those zoos that support real conservation initiatives in elephant range states, but breeding elephants in captivity has nothing to do with conservation. It should at the same time be obvious that we cannot, in the name of undocumented educational value, let elephants suffer. You may want to visit Elephants in zoos, or our FAQ about elephants in captivity, to read more.

8. Ensure that your local zoo does not import elephants from the wild

Because zoos don't have the space to allow elephants the lifestyle they are adapted for, they neither reproduce nor survive well in captivity. It is a disturbing fact that the list of dead zoo elephants gets longer by the day. The result is that the number of elephants in captivity in the United States and in Europe is in decline. There is growing incentive for zoos to try to acquire more elephants from Africa or Asia.

You can help to ensure that elephants are not taken from the wild by making sure that your local zoo does not obtain its elephants from any of the elephant range states. Instead demand that your zoo phase out its elephant exhibit or build a sanctuary sized enclosure where elephants basic interests can be met. You may want to read Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles, a document launched in December 2011.

The beginning of 2003 has been marked by the political initiatives by the newly elected and very promising Kenyan government. Kenyans and Kenya’s fantastic nature deserve a flowering future!

Building  our new research tent in the  Elephant Camp. (©ElephantVoices)In December we had productive meetings with our collaborators at Macauley Library of Natural Sounds and the Elephant Listening Project (Cornell University, Ithaca). We will meet our friends at Cornell also in March and August this year, to strengthen our joint efforts to better understand elephants and their complex language.

We have been on several trips to our field site in Amboseli since the beginning of 2003. One important task, completed in February, was the building of a new field home/office in the Amboseli Elephant Research Camp. A new tent is up under a cooling makuti (palm frond) roof, and the sun is providing us with enough power to give us light and necessary charging capacity for all our equipment during the dark African nights. We chose to use recycled plastic posts (8) to carry the heavy roof construction, to follow up our intentions to let the elephant research camp be in the forefront when it comes to eco-friendly solutions. This alternative to wood should have a great potential in Kenya considering the amount of waste plastic, and the need to preserve and expand the few remaining forests.

Joyce watching elephants outside our new tent in  Amboseli. (©ElephantVoices)We were certainly not alone during our first few days in our new field base - numerous curious, friendly and talkative elephants literally surrounded the tent-site and us. A lot of the scientific work in January and February focused on the demanding task of completing a first version of the comprehensive database of elephant visual and tactile signals mentioned in a separate news-piece. This job has been fascinating and fun, but extremely time-consuming.

ElephantVoices has so far triggered a lot of interest and requests from other researchers – we do hope the presentation of visual and tactile signals will further stimulate the rather international mail-communication related to elephants and their conservation. Amboseli finally had rain in December, and a short but substantial rainfall in the middle of February.

Amboseli is therefore green and beautiful, and its elephants are experiencing a time of plenty. As a result we can expect a lot of newborns in two years time. Hundreds of elephants have been within the boundary of the National Park, and it has been easy to find and follow elephants. The Echo-family has been one exception – and they have been harder to find than usual. Good living conditions may have triggered an interest in breaking old patterns – or maybe our almost 60 year old and famous matriarch is playing games with us? More likely she was on the loose searching for a decent mate. The fact that she was mated just the other day indicates that the gracious lady is ship shape, and that her retirement is still a few years away.

Trumpets, Petter

We spent 8 days in Amboseli between 11th and 18th May with a student, Blake Murray, from Seattle working with us. We experienced several close encounters with elephants, some extremely entertaining, some very sad.

As the rains began in late April Echo took her family (the EBs) to the western side of the park, an area she rarely visits. This move proved fatal for Echo’s eldest daughter, Erin, who in late April was speared twice, high on her right shoulder by Maasai moran (or warriors). Since the EBs were inside the park the most likely reason for the spearing appears to have been a show of manhood. Although Erin (or a family member) was able to remove the spears her wounds were extremely deep and became infected.

By early May, when she was first sighted, she was clearly in intense pain and unable to move more than a few steps at a time. The decision was taken to immobilize her, clean the wound and treat her with antibiotics. Although she appeared to make a comeback for a few days, the infection must have been well advanced and so on 15 May she was immobilized and treated again. The Kenya Wildlife Service crew did a great job on both occasions. To make a long and sad story short – a week or so later it was clear that she couldn’t survive – Erin collapsed, unable to stand again. After deliberation between KWS and AERP it was decided to immobilize her first (M99 the drug used to immobilize elephants contains morphine) and then euthanise her. Thus Erin’s pain and life ended.

Erin.  (©ElephantVoices)She was mother to adult daughters, Edwina (21) and Eleanor (17), juvenile daughters, Echeri (8) and Erica (5) and several independent young males as well as grandmother to three calves, Europa (7), Elaine (4) and Elmo (4). Her youngest surviving calf, “E-mail

Sarah Benson-Amram. (©ElephantVoices)On 20th September Sarah Benson-Amram arrived in Nairobi to join the SEVP team for one year.

Sarah is originally from Berkeley, California studied Animal Behavior at Cornell University where she earned her Bachelor`s degree in 2001. Following graduation, Sarah worked for one year as a research assistant on two different projects. She spent 6 months in Madagascar studying the vocal communication and behavior of the Silky Sifaka, a species of lemur, and 5 months in Utah, working with Dr. John Hoogland on his prairie dog research. She then returned to Ithaca, New York to work at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology as an audio archivist in the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds. This position added to her knowledge of sound recording, sound analysis, and animal communication.

It was here that she met Joyce Poole and Petter Granli and, due to her passion for elephants, was able to set up a meeting to discuss elephant research. Sarah is now analysing SEVP recordings in the lab/office outside Nairobi, and will later be conducting playbacks in Amboseli as part of her job with SEVP.

Cheers, Petter/SEVP

We were in Amboseli again between 14 and 22 February, primarily for Joyce to work on a film production for National Geographic Television. The January rain had been good for Amboseli, and the elephants were in lively groups of up to three hundred.

In our research camp office much of the time was used in analysis of previous recordings (Sarah), and populating the newly designed ElephantVoices Database (Joyce). Joyce and Amboseli Elephant Research Project’s (AERP) Training Manager, Norah Njiraini, had the pleasure to finalize the selection of two recipients for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants new secondary school scholarship program for Maasai girls. AERP is engaged in numerous community projects, support of local students at secondary (two girls per year) and university level (currently three) being one of these.

Meanwhile, Petter focused on upcoming web-challenges, video recordings as well as the daunting task of trying to answer the many requests and comments that comes in through ElephantVoices.

Quite a few Kilimanjaro elephants visited the camp and it’s surroundings during our stay. The “Kili Eles

A major milestone for ElephantVoices is the completion of a tailor-made database for the project’s thousands of recordings of elephant vocalizations. The database has been developed in close collaboration with a Kenyan IT student from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Phillip Nyamwaya, whom we have engaged to work with us on the project. Phillip has done a fantastic job, finding solutions to all of Joyce’s complicated requests.

The main user interface on EV Audio DatabaseThe database works a treat! The database will be a vital tool in the ongoing and time-consuming process of analyzing elephant calls, which will continue through 2005. While the actual measurement of audio files takes place in programs like Signal and Raven, ELEPHANTVOICES AUDIO DATABASE will be the very productive storage bank for the huge amount of data collected. The database, which links field notes (e.g. location, group size, call type, caller, behavioral context), measurements, audio files, video files, image files and spectrograms, will form the basis for understanding the acoustic repertoire of African savanna elephants. As work progresses we will make some of these data available on http://www.elephantvoices.org. Eventually we plan to make the best quality data in the database available on the web. Our hope is that we will be able to combine our work on African savanna elephants with the work of the Elephant Listening Project on African forest elephants and a future study of Asian elephants.

The database is built in MS Access with a Visual Basic interface. Scripts have been developed for different purposes related to updates, export of sound files and analysis. For example, by linking the ELEPHANTVOICES DATABASE to AERP’s 32-year demography database, the age of an individual elephant at the time of calling is automatically entered for each record. Thus, for instance, the database now includes calls by Emma at age 1 and calls by her as a mother at age 16. And our research assistant can now easily do part of the analysis in Amboseli (her favorite work place…), and by mailing a temporary storage file back to Nairobi, Joyce can easily add these measurements to their already existing records in the database.

Cheers, Petter/ElephantVoices

We spent 24 hours in the research camp from the morning of 8 July, mainly to meet up with a Japanese film crew wanting to present our work on elephant communication and the Amboseli elephants. Our study elephants the EB family collaborated nicely throughout the day, and the film crew obviously went back to Nairobi and Japan with a lot of good footage.

This field visit was the last one for a couple of months, since extensive work with data-analysis, papers, video/audio editing and the book about the 32 year Amboseli Elephant Research Project will engage us fully in the time to come.



TheJapanese film crew covering the work of ElephantVoices with the famous Japanese actor and singer Yuji Oda (left of Joyce) as presenter.

WeTheJapanese film crew covering the work of ElephantVoices with the famous Japanese actor and singer Yuji Oda (left of Joyce) as presenter. We’re still working hard with changes and expansions on ElephantVoices, and we apologize for any errors or strange behavior on the site while this work is going on. Slow Kenyan lines and thereby long upload-times to our server in Trondheim/Norway are still giving us some head-aches. We’ll be back with information when the changes have been completed, hopefully during next week. Cheers, Petter/ElephantVoices

The third film about Amboseli's EB family (our study elephants) is being shown on the BBC's Natural World on Wednesday 19th January, with a repeat on Sunday 23rd. See below.

If you are among those who can receive the BBC we recommend that you take the time to watch the film. The elephant sounds are carefully selected from the ElephantVoices collection.

Many of you may have heard the surprising news that very few animals died in the devastating Tsunami that killed over 160,000 people. The amazing behavior of animals, particularly elephants, has already been the focus of several articles and documentaries. You will find one such article, which includes a few comments by Joyce, on National Geographics website.

This phenomenon has also attracted interest in Norway, and the National Broadcaster NRK (Schrødingers Katt) will include an interview with Joyce about the response of elephants to earthquakes which will probably air on 10 February.

In September 2003 the ElephantVoices team visited Yala East National Park on Sri Lanka's eastern coast. We had a fantastic experience there thanks to our friend Lalith Seneviratne and our extraordinary host, Park Warden R. Myunideen Mohamed. The parks had just been reopened following two decades of civil unrest.

Mohamed's family are among the many who have lost everything but their lives. All the Park's staff saved themselves, some by running side by side with water buffaloes. The elephants had left for higher ground earlier. The park's new headquarters was submerged in five feet of water, but a miracle saved them from major damage.

Mohamed,  Joyce and Lalith in Yala East September 2003 - one of the areas that  encountered the destructive forces of the Tsunami. (©ElephantVoices)

Mohamed, Joyce and Lalith in Yala East September 2003 - one of the areas that encountered the destructive forces of the Tsunami.
Our thoughts are with the Sri Lankan people, and all others affected by the Sumatra quake.

Cheers, Petter/ElephantVoices
You can now find an icon Glossary of Terms within the new ElephantVoices Resources section. The glossary is compiled and introduced by M. PHILIP KAHL and CHARLES SANTIAPILLAI.

We hope this elephant terms glossary will be useful to anyone reading about elephants, which encounters an unfamiliar term. You will have to download the glossary to your computer to see it, and to search in it.

Words have been collected from many sources, over a number of years. Please bear in mind that such a work will always be less-than-complete, very much a work-in-progress. It is an on-going project; many definitions will need modification, and Kahl and Santiapillai invite you to contribute your comments!

Cheers, Petter/ElephantVoices

It has taken more time and energy to establish ourselves in Norway than we expected and for this reason ElephantVoices has been rather quiet lately when it comes to online activities. We are slowly getting there, and have high ambitions for activity on the site in 2005.

On 22 December Joyce will present her work and ElephantVoices in a public lecture in Ketchum, Idaho, at the nexStage Theatre at 7pm. A reception for interested people will follow. Then on 28 December Joyce will be at Iconoclast Books in Ketchum, Idaho to sign copies of her book, “Coming of Age With Elephants

Elephants are capable of vocal learning and mimicry, according to a Brief Communication in this week's Nature. An ability shown by bats, birds, primates and marine mammals, vocal imitation is thought to be used within complex social groups to strengthen and maintain individual bonds whenanimals separate and reunite.

Joyce Poole and colleagues analyzed examples of vocal imitation by African savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana) living in different locations. The first elephant, Mlaika, a 10-year-old adolescent female residing in Tsavo, Kenya, was recorded making truck-like sounds. Trucks can sometimes be heard from Mlaika's night stockade, which lies 3 km from the Nairobi-Mombassa highway. Mlaika's truck-like calls were significantly different in all respects from the normal calls made by African elephants.

The second elephant, Calimero, is a 23-year-old male who spent 18 years living with two female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) at the Basel Zoo in Switzerland. Unlike their African counterparts, Asian elephants typically communicate using chirping sounds. Calimero now emulates these chirp-like calls almost to the point of excluding all other sounds. The researchers say that as far as they know, this is the first time this kind of vocal learning has been displayed in a non-primate land mammal.

The mentioned feature article will be published in Nature, Volume 434, page 455-456, 24 March.

This press release has led to substantial interest from media from all over the world, and you can find out more about this using the following link: Google Search Nature article

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

The fact that is has been rather quiet from us for some time does not mean that nothing is happening within the project. In March and part of April we spent a few weeks in Kenya, but unfortunately not long enough in our field station in Amboseli due to obligations in Nairobi. Meetings with our collaborators took part of the time.

Ebony with  her calf, April 2005.  (©ElephantVoices)Furthermore, for Petter a substantial amount of time went it to the ongoing project “Mitigating Human-Elephant Conflicts in the Amboseli eco-system. This issue is of major importance for the future survival of the Amboseli elephants. After a long dry period it started to rain while in the field, and soon it was difficult to follow our study elephants off-road. The Park very soon received 200mm of rain, and everything became brilliant green. Elephants in groups of more than 200 came into the park in the morning, and walked in the Kilimanjaro direction in the evening. And Ebony in the EB family, not even 11, got a baby. A male. The EB’s are now 30.

Two scientific papers have been published since last newsletter, and right now Joyce is in the US working together with some AERP colleagues on the book The Amboseli Elephants: a long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal, that will be published on University of Chicago Press.

We plan to upload a substantial number of new recordings to ElephantVoices in the next couple of months, and hope you will visit us soon again.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

The same day, 29 September, that Joyce returned from a productive 2.5 week field trip to Kenya and Amboseli it was announced that President Kibaki had agreed that Amboseli National Park should be given back to Kajiado County Council. Tourism and Wildlife Minister Morris Dzoro subsequently issued a special Gazette notice downgrading Amboseli from the status of a national park to a national reserve.

Kenya Wildlife Service, the current managers of the Park, were not consulted or informed about the decision, and nor were the many other stakeholders. Since the announcement the media and numerous organizations and individuals have followed and questioned the surprising move while Amboseli has been inundated by thousands of cows. The general impression is that the manner in which the change was executed does not follow Kenyan law.

It is still unclear how Amboseli, a park that has been vital for Kenya's and Kenya Wildlife Service's economy, and famous among international tourists, will be managed in the future. This issue is naturally of great concern for Amboseli Elephant Research Project and ElephantVoices, since it will obviously have consequences for the elephant population in the area. You can find several articles about the situation through a search on Amboseli in the Daily Nation.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

The ElephantVoices team will be in Kenya between 12th February and 7th March, most of the time with our study elephants in and around Amboseli National Park.

A major part of Kenya is experiencing a serious drought, which has a substantial impact on the lives of people and animals also in the Amboseli ecosystem.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

An interview with Joyce Poole and other scientists in New Scientist 18 February edition created substantial media focus. The article entitled, Elephants on the edge fight back, examines the underlying causes of what appears to be increasing aggression directed towards people. Increasing evidence suggests that post-traumatic stress disorder as well as revenge may play a role. You will find the full article here, icon Elephants on the edge fight back (156.69 kB), and some other media coverage here.

Just having arrived back from Kenya Joyce and Petter were very disturbed to learn that a below freezing and snow-covered Sandefjord, Norway, was expecting a visit from a circus with elephants. The local newspaper Sandefjords Blad published their commentary on 21. February. (In English icon here (51.35 kB).

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

National Geographic Channel has this weekend shown the Explorer Program "Revenge of the Elephants", where Joyce Poole and ATE's project manager Soila Sayialel has contributed and is interviewed. Part of the footage is from Amboseli National Park in Kenya, our research homeground.  Read more here.

The program was shown August 11 and 12th, and will also be aired Monday August 13 at 12pm Eastern Time (9AM Pacific Time).

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

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Quite a few updates have recently been uploaded to ElephantVoices. Within the How YOU can help section the page Elephants are truly unique has replaced "Elephants are important". Other pages within this section has been updated as well.

We have now fully converted from the name Savanna Elephant Vocalization Project to ElephantVoices. The reason is simply that the double meaning covers both our study of elephants voices, as well as our intention to be an important voice for the interests of elephants.

In general elephant communication is our main focus the next few months, including during our month-long field trip to Kenya/Amboseli from 9 December. We plan to present some exciting material on ElephantVoices during 2007.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices
During our month long work period based in our ATE field station in Amboseli National Park we have so far (Dec. 26) experienced a lot of rain. The park is green and wet, and we have seen hundreds of happy and playful elephants most days. You will hear more about dynamics and interaction during such type of weather after our departure 7. January.

We wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Best wishes, Petter/ElephantVoices

Due to a family tragedy the ElephantVoices website has not been prioritized the last few months, but we are slowly getting back to speed. In this newsletter you will find some short notes from various activities and events since our last update.Amboseli tourists (©ElephantVoices)

Our field trip from 9. December to 6. January was a productive one despite heavy rain and flooding in Amboseli. A large lake developed next to our camp, and a pair of hippos moved in. Field work focused on acquiring additional sound recordings and photographs, in addition to various administrative tasks. The frequent downpours and the high number of tourists reduced our quality time with the elephants, though.ElephantVoices  field vehicle, Amboseli. (©ElephantVoices)

To celebrate Christmas in Amboseli's animal kingdom is a uniquely wonderous and peaceful event - quite far away from the commercial circus in more urban surroundings.

Petter put in substantial efforts preparing for a new high-end solar system in the research camp. We now receive 220 volt from a photovoltaic "power plant" by the dining tent, instead of drawing from individual, 12 volt systems. This development is certainly a milestone. The Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) under the direction of one of it's supporters, Stephen Gold, is behind this incredible donation. Gold has achieved this through corporate donations of solar components and private donations to acquire other hardware. Donors include British Petroleum, Outback Power Systems, Solar Depot, Deka Batteries and others. Gold, who lives in Noe Valley in San Francisco, is a passionate proponent of solar energy. You will find some photos from the installation here.

Joyce and  Petter discussing ethics regarding elephants at The Taft School. (Photo:  Taft)Joyce and Petters ATE/ElephantVoices lecture and fundraising tour to the US from 29th January to 12 February went according to plan. Lectures and discussions at The Taft School, Vermont Academy and The Explorers Club, New York, were among events along the way. Check out the Science & the City podcast (Webzine of The New York Academy of Sciences) from The Explorers Club lecture - "Speaking Truths About Elephants".

You may enjoy visiting the PBS website describing a recent film "Unforgettable Elephants", about filmmaker Martyn Colbecks work. In creating the three films about Echo's family, Martyn has been a frequent visitor to Amboseli over the last 15 years, and knows our study elephants extremely well!

You may also wish to visit the Amboseli Biosphere Reserve WikiProject, a collaborative workspace for stakeholders dedicated to improving knowledge and guiding natural resource conservation and management in and around the Amboseli Biosphere Reserve.

Joyce is in Amboseli from 12th. to 24th. April, mainly working on ATE's new digital elephant ID database and other important research issues.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Joyce was in Amboseli from 12-24 April, mainly working on the new ATE digital elephant ID database and the upcoming Amboseli book.
(©ElephantVoices)
Project manager Soila Sayialel, Robert Sayialel and Norah Njiraini working with the ID database in "Echo Romeo Hotel", ATE's field office i Amboseli

In general the book, The Amboseli Elephants: A long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal, has been close to an all consuming task during the last few months. The book will present the accumulated findings of more than 30 years of research on the Amboseli elephant population. Almost 20 scientists who have been involved in the Amboseli project over the years are contributing to what will be a vital source of information for people interested in or working with elephants.

With our contributions to the Amboseli book soon off our hands we plan to use more energy on the development of the elephant communication database on ElephantVoices.

Elephantvoices' FAQ about elephants in captivity was updated in the beginning of July. The changes are mainly related to the first ten questions/answers. Some more documents are linked, and also included in the welfare documents page. Among these are the resent updated version of ATE's statement about elephants in circuses.

Some good news: Today we learned that icon the statement (161.77 kB) we prepared late last year arguing against the capture of wild elephants for elephant back safaris has been successfully used in a South African court case to protect elephants.

We are on behalf of all elephants also happy that African governments reached an agreement during the last CITES meeting in the Hague that gives a nine year ban on further ivory trade. You can read more about the long and controversial "ivory saga" here.

We are soon off on our summer holiday with our eager seafarer, Malita, and wish you all a pleasant and relaxed summer!


Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices
Joyce and Petter will be on an ATE/ElephantVoices lecture and fundraising tour in the US from 29th January to 12 February. Lectures, presentations and meetings in San Francisco (15/16), Bozeman - Museum of the Rockies (17), Big Sky - Ophir School (18), Jackson Hole (18 - 20, public lecture 20th at National Museum of Wildlife Art, San Francisco (24 - 26) and Los Angeles (27) are on their tight schedule. They will also visit PAWS.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Joyce is travelling to South Africa on 7th November to attend a workshop in Pretoria, South Africa, on 8th November to discuss the draft Norms and Standards that will set policy for future elephant management in the country. This workshop will be dealing solely with issues relating to captive elephants.

The workshop is being held by the Department of Environment and Tourism to provide the "elephant industry" (trainers and elephant back safari operators), animal welfare groups and elephant scientists a platform to present information and evidence to be considered in the setting of protocols. Joyce has been invited to participate as an elephant ethologist and will be presenting evidence as to why South Africa should outlaw the capture of wild elephants and put an end to the training of elephants for circuses and elephant back safaris.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Our month long field trip was very productive, despite being in a country in turmoil. The situation in Amboseli was quiet, and even more so with fewer and fewer tourists visiting.

With so many of the western and Tanzanian elephant families visiting the central part of the park, we were able to accomplish all of the playbacks we had planned for in good time. Even though the current unrest in Kenya prevented us from completing ATE’s new Elephant ID database, we are very pleased with its development. We expect that it will be ready for field testing in the next few weeks.

During this field trip we used quite a few of our evenings writing and uploading updates from our field work and our activities to our new blog on WildlifeDirect. Photos, sounds and video-clips have been uploaded as part of our reports. WildlifeDirect is founded and chaired by Dr. Richard Leakey, and it's goal is to empower individuals and organizations to help save the worlds wild species by connecting likeminded people through blogging. Through our blog we have reached new people, and have received quite a few comments and questions. Do visit this blog if you want to read more about our playback experiments and other activities during our field trip.

1. Our last days in Amboseli saw more and more dust devils. Rain is much needed – it was flooding at this time last year. 2. Meeting Echo is always a treat and we look forward to seeing her next time. Her 2005 calf, Esprit, is doing fine, but we predict she was Echo’s last.

We continue to follow with deep concern and interest the political and humanitarian crisis in Kenya. A solution that provides the basis for a peaceful and prosperous future, rather than a quick fix, is vital for all. And even if such an agreement can be made, the trust and bonds between Kenyans as individuals and as communities must be rebuilt and strengthened. We are looking at a long process.

The next few months promise to be busy. Analysis of our playbacks (audio and video), writing papers, making additions to our photo library, updating our visual and tactile signals database, educational outreach and selected elephant welfare challenges, will fill our days in the months to come. You will also see some other expansions on ElephantVoices, especially related to sounds and video. In addition there is always a flow of incoming e-mails and elephant related requests that we do our best to respond to.

We hope that you will continue to visit ElephantVoices throughout the year - and might try to tempt you with elephant sounds like these:
{audio}thanks.mp3{/audio}

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce

Around the world people watched yesterday as Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga finally reached an agreement. Kenyans are celebrating - and those of us who love Kenya hope that a foundation for a new and constructive era has been put in place. While the price has been high, we have been reminded about the value of democracy, fair play and long term stability.

Amboseli  baby climbing. (©ElephantVoices)We urge Kenya's leaders to maintain good spirit during the hard work and reconciliation efforts that lie ahead - the current enthusiasm and the desire of the Kenyan people for peace should be of inspiration. Poverty and desperation do not make a viable environment for engendering harmony between people and animals. Agreement between the political camps means that we can all get back to working for a more prosperous future for all.

And what about wildlife conservation in general? In a previous comment on our blog on WildlifeDirect Ann asks what the accurate situation is. In truth it is highly variable, species to species, country to country, and place to place. From our perspective the future is dependent on how people deal with the fact that resources are in limited supply and are dwindling.

Are we individually and collectively willing to put enough aside for other creatures, like elephants, gorillas, and chimpanzees as well as the myriad of less charismatic species that share our planet? It is as simple and as difficult as that.

Amboseli elephants with Kilimanjaro. (©ElephantVoices)

Despite the recent spearings, Amboseli is a success story. The work of Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) over 35 years has contributed substantially to the conservation of the ecosystem's elephants, which today number around 1,500 individuals. The challenges are many for those in Kenya Wildlife Service, the local community and AERP who work tirelessly to achieve this success. While poaching for ivory is not a problem, at least not for now, confrontations between people and elephants can be. It is more than fair that local people feel that a share of the money generated by wildlife tourism helps to improve their lives - which is one reason why AERP and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants has initiated numerous community projects.

For the lives of Amboseli's elephants and the many other species, including people, who inhabit the ecosystem, the conservation struggle is certainly worth the effort. The benefits don't stop there, however, for millions of people from around the world have visited Amboseli and have benefited from the joy of seeing these magnificent animals - and millions more have watched and learned from Amboseli's elephants on TV documentaries.
Elephants on row. (©ElephantVoices)

Studying elephants and being in their presence is a continuous reminder of why elephants deserve our attention and support. Experiencing their affection, compassion and loyality for one another and witnessing their extraordinary teamwork is a humbling lesson in the meaning of humanity - or perhaps a better term would be "elephanity".

'It is not possible for a free man to catch a glimpse of the great elephant herds roaming the vast spaces of Africa without taking an oath to do whatever is necessary to preserve for ever this living splendour.'
Romain Gary, Roots of Heaven, 1958

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce
Elephants in sunset. (©ElephantVoices)

Svalbard  visit. (©ElephantVoices)Early morning on Wednesday last week I started on a long journey - ending up in Longyearbyen at Svalbard in late afternoon. The occasion was a trip for suppliers and customers of the company BK Gisholt Finne where I am a board member. Being one of the founders of Basecamp Explorer (winner of several prestigious eco-tourism awards, and having visited these arctic islands under Norwegian sovereignty several times before, I had taken the job as guide for 20 men on tour.

Isfjord Radio. (©ElephantVoices)I was certainly looking forward to exploring more of Svalbard's amazing nature. After one night in Longyearbyen we took off on our snow scooters, aiming for Isfjord Radio at Kapp Linne 120 kilometres away. The station was established in 1933 to act as an intermediary for traffic between Svalbard Radio and ships in the waters around Svalbard. During the second world war, Isfjord Radio was destroyed by German occupying forces. The station was rebuilt and set back into operation in 1946. Most of Isfjord Radio's functions were moved to Longyearbyen a long time ago, and the station is today operated as a tourist destination by Basecamp Spitsbergen.

Svalbard nature. (©ElephantVoices)During hours taking in Svalbard's spectacular nature, with temperatures of 15 below (Centigrade), I also contemplated my upcoming trip to Kenya. You may say that a job not far from the north pole, in polar bear country, brings in money we use toward our work for elephants on the other side of the globe. This is also my excuse for posting this... Some of the challenges facing polar bears and elephants are partly connected. Global warming may lead to disastrous loss of habitat for both species. The headlines are melt-down of ice and snow - and more drought.

Toilet line Kapp Linne. (©ElephantVoices)It's fair to tell you that I arranged the photo to the right just for fun. I couldn't resist getting my guys to pretend that they were waiting for their turn in front of this toilet-like construction on the very edge of Kapp Linne.

The tiny house has obviously been used at one point as a look-out towards the often very rough Isfjorden.
(©ElephantVoices)

 

We didn't see polar bears during our stay, but on Svalbard one is always prepared to meet them. Our trip was nonetheless fantastic, with spectacular views in all directions. After two sunny and clear days we ended up in a snow storm on the way back. My group was lucky enough to see the real arctic - in which the weather changes in minutes from crystal clear to almost zero visibility.

The world is full of contrasts, and Svalbard and Kenya are obvious examples. While preparing for my morning flight tomorrow Friday 18th I feel privileged to be able to experience both!

Best wishes, Petter

Hi All

While preparing for our next field trip to Amboseli I am also checking out different publishing options on our web platform. In the field such activities are more of a challenge, and our internet-connection not fiber-optic superspeed-like, so it makes sense to get to know the possibilities before we're in the bush. I have uploaded a video sample from our collection of elephant vocalizations to YouTube - you can read more about our future vocalization database on ElephantVoices here.

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The clip shows what we call a Contact Call. Elephants use Contact Calls to keep in audible contact with one another sometimes over long distances. In a sense an interchange of contact calls queries, "I am here, where are you?" and in answer, "I am over here". Contact calls typically contain a series of at least three calls: The querying rumble by the initial caller, an answer by a second individual and then a confirmation by the initial caller that the answer has been received. Other nearby family members may also add their voice to the second or third phase of the series.

Read more about Contact Calls, and listen to a variety of samples, here.

Cheers, Petter

Our last day of playbacks ended with an extraordinary meeting with visitors to Amboseli National Park – a group of elephants from the Tanzanian slopes of Kilimanjaro. These elephants look very different from Amboseli’s elephants. They have smaller and darker bodies, smaller more triangular ears with a particular venation patterns, relatively longer legs and thinner, usually upcurved tusks. Experiencing a more negative relationship with human beings they are more wary and alert than their Amboseli counterparts. And, perhaps also because they are away from their normal range, they don’t let us come too close. We find the behavior of these elephants fascinating to watch and we enjoy every meeting with them.

ElephantVoices meeting with Kilimanjaro  elephants. (©ElephantVoices)

As our last playback, we played a series of anti predator trumpets to them. In the previous playbacks of this type all of the Amboseli elephant families responded as we expected them to – by bunching together and reacting with alarm. The elephants from this family did the same but then they decided to charge on masse! Their behavior was masterpiece of strategic defensive action to assess the danger, then a group attack and ultimately a full retreat – organized better than any law enforcement agency could have done it. It’s all documented with video and audio tape and still images, and will be analyzed together with the 74 other playbacks we completed during this field period.

Peter and Ngoshopu in ATE research camp.  (©ElephantVoices)Early on 9th we packed the car, said goodbye to our friends and camp staff, Peter and Ngoshopu, and started on the bumpy hour and a quarter ride back to the border town of Namanga. From Namanga to Kiserian outside Nairobi the road is relatively OK, and after another few shaky kilometers we arrived at our property on the Rift Valley escarpment south of the Ngong Hills.

It’s name Raha Mstarehe means

A week ago Anita asked whether we had worked with the elephant orphans at the Sheldrick Trust and whether being raised by humans affected their communication. Petter already answered that we have worked with them. Since that work resulted in a paper in Nature, and since it has some bearing on Anita's question I will tell you a bit about what we found.

In 1998 Daphne Sheldrick's daughter, Jill, mentioned to me that one of the orphan's in Tsavo (where they go once they are over two years old) was making a very strange sound. So I went down to Tsavo with my recording equipment and once the orphans were settled down in their "boma" (enclosure) for the night I began recording. Almost immediately I heard a very weird sound and asked the keeper what it was. "That's it!" he responded. It sounded like a fog horn - nothing like an elephant! I soon realised that when I had my earphones on I couldn't tell whether I was hearing the elephant, Malaika, making the strange noise or whether I was hearing the distant trucks on the Nairobi-Mombasa road, 3 kilometers away - and had to remove my earphones to localize the sound and differentiate them. I began thinking that perhaps Malaika (and some of the other orphans it turned out) was imitating truck sounds! But I didn't think anyone would believe me.

Here is the sound Malaika made: {audio}A2200421_truck_like_call_48.mp3{/audio}

(You may need to use earphones or be connected to a sound system to hear it properly).

Some years later I contacted Peter Tyack and Stephanie Watwood who study vocal learning (imitation) in dolphins about the recordings I had. At about that time Angela Steoger-Horwath got in touch with me, saying that she had recordings of a captive male African elephant who had been raised with Asian females and was making Asian elephant chirping sounds! So the four of us teamed up and wrote a paper for Nature documenting vocal learning in elephants. (Poole et al. 2005. Elephants are capable of vocal learning. (289.43 kB))

Elephants are highly social and intelligent animals and they also happen to have a very flexible vocal tract. This means that they have the ability to learn to produce sounds other than those that fall in the normal repertoire of the species. In a natural social setting we may find that elephants use this ability to imitate their close associates in order to cement these bonds (a bit like our daughter's English accent changes from Norwegian English to Kenyan English depending upon which of her friends she is with). This ability was demonstrated by the African elephant raised with Asians. In captivity elephants also seem to use their vocal learning ability in less useful ways - by imitating trucks and lawnmowers or people whistling, or just making weird sounds. Perhaps this activity relieves the boredom that captivity often presents.

Amboseli is one of Kenya’s highest revenue earning parks. Its popularity stems from the picturesque backdrop of towering, snow-capped Kilimanjaro and Amboseli’s elephants - made famous through long-term study, popular books and numerous documentary films. The fees paid by the hundreds of thousands of visiting tourists visiting Amboseli each year helps to cover the cost of running other lesser-known national parks, whose protection is equally essential to biodiversity conservation.

Tourists  and elephants in Amboseli

In December, as we were trying to accomplish our playback experiments, we had to take several hundred tourists into consideration. In the evening aggregations of elephants crossed the main road traveling from the swamp to the woodland in a spectacular moving display. Here elephants and people intersected. Tour buses can be very annoying, driving too fast, crowding the animals and leaving their car engines’ running – disturbing the elephants and destroying any opportunity for recordings!

The tourist boom the last few years has encouraged the alarming mushrooming of tourist facilities on the boundary of Amboseli, blocking migration routes and threatening to destroy the small park. Powerful individuals have blocked bringing a halt to these developments.

As the election violence escalated we watched as the number of minibuses declined, until by the time we departed there were almost no visitors left in the park. Tortilis, Amboseli’s high-end camp, was deserted during peak season, its manager left wondering what to do with the smoked salmon and the champagne. With violence continuing unabated, Kenya’s tourism sector won’t be bouncing back any time soon.

Amboseli  elephants dusting

A substantial percentage of Kenya’s population survives on the tourism industry. Many camps and lodges will fold and with them the livelihoods of thousands, even millions of Kenyans. With very little income for the parks, one can only hope that Kenya Wildlife Service will be able to continue to do the important job of protecting our already threatened wildlife in the face of the increasing poverty and desperation in the communities surrounding the parks.

Clouds over  Amboseli

While we hope that the people controlling Kenya’s future will talk their way out of the deadlock – we will continue to work for the best for elephants, knowing that the future of Kenya and the planet will be poorer if these amazing animals are not to be seen.

Thank you for your continued support!

Greetings, Joyce & Petter Greeting

The comment we received from Anna in response to Meeting Mr. Nick prompts me to write this post. She mentions a male named Edo, who originally came from Amboseli's EB family, and is now living in Tsavo National Park. Back in September 1989 Emily, one of the adult female members of the EB family, died after feeding on garbage at Amboseli Lodge.

Emily dead. (©ElephantVoices)After days of searching we found Emily's carcass lying by Amboseli Lodge rubbish heap.

Amboseli National Park Warden discusses a clean up with the managers of Amboseli Lodge. The incident provoked an outcry, and we published a story in the Daily Nation exposing all of the items we found in her stomach (though this prompted a clean up by the lodge then, Amboseli Lodge and its surrounds are still a disgrace 18 years later). Emily died leaving her adult daughter, Eudora, and a six-month-old son. Her infant was too young to survive without his mother's milk and we decided to ask the The Sheldrick Orphanage to take him in.

At the time of Emily's death I was working with a Japanese film crew (remember elephants and the ivory trade were a big issue for the Japanese) and the capture of her male calf became an integral part of the story. The crew gave him a Japanese name, Edo, which is the term for the ancient city of Tokyo. Capturing Edo was no simple task and I made the mistaken judgment that a six month old elephant could fit into the back of an Izuzu Trooper. Well, when he tried to escape over the front seats he popped out one of the back windows, dented the roof of the car and pushed me onto the gear shift and I had pain sitting for the next 18 months!

When I worked in Tsavo in 1998 I had a chance to see and even record him. He was a big boy then and not permitted to stay with Malaika and the younger calves at night. He obviously missed their companionship though, because as he walked off for his night alone, he repeatedly called out to them with "Let's go"rumbles, some of which were answered by Malaika, Ewaso and the others. It is lovely to see his photo on the link that Anna sent because he looks so like his mother, Emily, and sister, Eudora! Note that his tusks are what we call "asymmetrical left higher" - and so were his mother's and his sister, Eudora. Put on your headphones to hear (low frequency sounds, difficult to hear through lousy computer speakers...) - Edo calling "Let's go" to his companions:

Put on your headphones to hear Edo calling "Let's go" to his companions. - a distant Edo calling (barely audible) and Malaika (louder) answering:Edo calling, Malaika answering Spectrogram  Edo callingEdo  calling, Malaika answering Spectrograms that show time/frequency of the calls mentioned above. (Click to see larger) Eudora,  Amboseli elephant from the EB family. (©ElephantVoices)
Eudora strolls by; note her asymmetrical tusks with the left tusk higher.
Edo (from  Sheldrick trust website)
Edo (photo from the Sheldrick Trust website) looks like his mother and older sister; note his higher left tusk.

Our post about the death of Tulip led friend, supporter and wildlife (especially elephants) sculptor, Doug Aja, to send us an e-mail with a few photos. Doug has visited our home in Kenya and Amboseli many times, and he met Tulip during visits in 1998 and in 2004, just after she was speared.

Joyce with  Tulip, 1998. (©Doug Aja) The first two photographs were taken in 1998 when Doug was out watching elephants with Joyce. Tulip was over 100 meters away when Joyce disgarded a fingernail-sized piece of overripe banana out the window. Tulip lifted her head, turned and sniffed. "Yummy, I know that smell from the good old days raiding tents with my mum," she must have thought. She did a swift 3-point turn and made her way rapidly toward us. You can see the concern on Joyce's face in the mirror of the car as she realizes her mistake! After that experience Joyce learned never to underestimate the ability of an elephant to detect a scent of interest. Tulip came right up, stretched her trunk to full length, snatched the smush of banana and popped it into her mouth.

Tulip 1998.  (©Doug Aja)Tulip in 2004, after having been speared.  (©Doug Aja)Doug writes: "I'm really saddened to hear about Tulip. The TAs have been my favorite family and she had become my favorite elephant. Probably because they have had such a struggle over the past decades. I tend to pull for the underdog. Along with the EBs and any large bull, they are always the elephants I most want to see while in Amboseli. One of my fondest memories was the late afternoon, while out with you ten years ago, spent with them. There had been good rains and the park was green with plenty of food. It seemed like such a relaxed and peaceful time. Attached are some photos of her."

People like Doug and the many other people reading our blog give us the inspiration to continue our work, despite the discouragement we sometimes feel living in a world where elephants and other species struggle for survival against such odds. The photos are all taken by Doug. The two first ones in 1998, the close-up of her face and trunk is taken after she was speared in January 2004.

 

Cheers, Petter & Joyce

Joyce preparing for recordingNew versions of software for photo and video editing are high on our priority list right now. They are essential to our educational outreach, including for our website, ElephantVoices, and for lectures. And after spending a couple of months in a workshop in Nairobi our research vehicle will soon be ready again for Kenya's rather bumpy roads and the bush.

We are extremely grateful for contributions towards the substantial costs of these two items. We know that there are so many good causes out there worth supporting - and we hope that you make ours one of them.

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce

The traditional bullhook used to control an elephant in Thailand (Photo credit Robert Poole). ElephantVoices' standpoint is that this instrument contributes to misery for elephants held captive, for with it elephants are trained and controlled. In August Joyce will travel to Washington DC to give her deposition the case against Ringling Brothers for its treatment of elephants. Preparations have taken literally months of work. Joyce is also likely to go back in October when the court case takes place. The basis for all of the contributions we make toward the interests of elephants is our long term studies of wild elephants.

Some people try to argue that elephants held captive are different from wild elephants because they are domesticated. There are two uses of the term domesticated - one meaning "of the household" and the other a biological one. It is the biological one that is important and in this sense there is no such thing as domesticated elephants. All species of modern elephants are capable of being - and routinely have been - habituated and tamed by humans. They remain, nevertheless, wild animals.

20/09/08
This morning Manori and I tried to solve some computer problems, sorted through ID photos and worked on a budget for the overall project. Our project will have quite a number of different components - social structure and demography, social behavior and communication, habitat use and movement patterns - with each of these informing recommendations for the design of a conservation landscape for this population of elephants. The area the elephants use is a mosaic of different patches of landuse types - national park, sanctuary, forest reserve, farmland and villages and small towns.

This afternoon we drove to a second national park, Kaudulla, about an hour from where we are staying, to see if we could find elephants there. Along the way the jeep that we had borrowed broke down with clutch problems. We managed to get into the park in another vehicle and, after some searching, found a couple of elephant groups. The first was a group of 10 males - including one just coming into musth and one young tusker (since very few males in Sri Lanka have tusks this is always noteworthy). Around the corner from this group was a large mixed group (cows, calves and associating males). They were disturbed by the presence of several jeeps and were making quite a commotion. We waited quietly for them to calm down and then approached.

One young male came charging out of the forest again and gave us a lively challenge!

From my dictaphone notes: 17:44 I took some photographs of a young male who was demonstrating, threatening us and instead of doing that, sort of running at you and then kicking dust or throwing dust at you [that African elephants do in similar circumstances], they [Asian elephants] tend to collect dust [with their trunk and feet], kick the dust, and while standing in one pace throw the dust over their head in a display.

Throwing dust display 1Throwing dust display 2Throwing dust display 3

As I sit at my desk writing this piece I can hear explosions in the distance: villagers trying to chase male elephants out of their farms.....

Joyce

Despite the current turmoil in the world's financial markets we continue to prepare for our fund raising tour to the Bay Area and Los Angeles, California between 7-20th November. Elephants have amazing senses, but I doubt that they have picked up on the quaking stock markets :)

Arriving in San Francisco two days after the election of a new American President contributes towards the anticipation associated with this trip - we are keeping fingers crossed that the result brings about some new found optimism! Thanks to the incredibly hard work of good friends and supporters in California, there are going to be several events in the San Francisco area and Los Angeles. There are smaller, more intimate events and some for a larger crowd - the gathering at the Bollyhood Cafe in San Francisco on 13 November and the luncheon at The Elephant Habitat at ARK 2000 (PAWS, San Andreas) on 15 November should be very lively. An informal talk, images and elephant vocals will be among the ingredients of the events. Raising funds for our Minneriya-Kaudulla Elephant Project will be a main focus of our California 7 to 20 November tour. Come and learn more about it!

We would love to see anyone interested in our work at one or more of these quite different events - you can take a look at what's on offer by reading or downloading a .pdf file with an overview of San Francisco events and contact names here. We have two events in Los Angeles, on 16 and 19 November, contact us on info(at)elephantvoices.org for more info.

We look forward to seeing you!

Some of you have seen the responses (online or in person) of Ruby, Maggie, Mara and Lulu to some elephant sounds that I played to them when Petter and I visited Ark2000 on 15 November for a joint fundraiser for PAWS and ElephantVoices. Their responses were so strong that some people have been concerned that the sounds were upsetting to the girls.

I want to take a moment here to address that concern. Over the years we have been approached a few times by people who have wanted to use some of the calls in our collection as enrichment for elephants in zoos. I have been reluctant to allow our recordings for this purpose because I have felt that people who didn’t understand the calls or the responses of the elephants to them could misuse them. I also feel that elephants are smart enough to figure out pretty quickly that the sounds are just a ploy – that there aren’t any real elephant out there to be companions - and then playing them is just unkind.

The situation at PAWS was different because I was there, able to monitor the elephants, along with Pat, Ed, and all the others who work with these individuals and know their behavior and responses so well. Also, having watched these elephants in the past, I knew I was dealing with individuals who were relaxed and well integrated and, in particular, were elephants who had one another’s companionship and support to rely on.


Joyce playing sounds for PAWS elephants. (©ElephantVoices)

Petter and I played several sounds to the PAWS elephants. The first was a musth rumble (made only by sexually active males), followed by a mating pandemonium (the excitement that follows a mating), and then a sequence in which a calf screamed (because a lion jumped on it) which was immediately followed by the angry sounds of mother elephants threatening the lion and calling in members of their family for support.

So how did Ruby, Maggie, Mara and Lulu respond to these sounds?

When the musth rumble was played:
Maggie and Mara were near fence and were very relaxed until the sound is played. They lifted their heads, Mara folded her ears (a threat) and they first ran away (they were taken by surprise by a sound nearby that they didn’t expect) and then Mara turned toward the speaker. She whirled and trumpeted with excitement (Not with fear) and they all ran together, spun around, trumpeted and rumbled (throaty and modulated sound – typical excited rumble) and then some of the elephants urinated. This is typical of a high level excited response of females to the sound of a musth rumble in the wild. The manner in which they spun around together showed how bonded they are.

When the mating pandemonium was played:
The four elephants were some distance off. They listened to the sounds of many elephants and appeared not sure what to do. They started to walk away, then stopped. Ruby was in the front and was contemplating what to do. She turned her head from one side to the other trying to localize/ understand the source of the sound. She appeared unsure of what to do.

When the scream and antipredator rumbles were played:
As soon as the calf screamed, Ruby paid attention. As the mother elephants began their loud roaring rumbles, Ruby came forward and then charged uphill toward the sound and stood tall (aggressive) near the fence. Then she ran back to the other elephants and backed into them. They trumpeted and bunch in a defensive formation. Ruby charged uphill again and gave a trumpet blast – as might be given toward a predator. All the elephants moved away in a bunched formation. They held their heads high with their trunks curled under in an apprehensive posture.

The elephants heard a calf in danger and the sounds of other elephants threatening a predator and calling for help. They responded just as they would in the wild – with alarm and then with anger. Ruby showed real leadership - she acted like a mother and a matriarch in the situation and came to the defence of the group – exactly the kind of response that one would expect to see in the wild.

While it may be rare for captive elephants to react so strongly to a stimulus, the responses were very typical of wild elephants and we were able to observe a range of reactions from high-level social excitement to fierce defence. In the wild when we do playback experiments we hope for reactions like this. I have many videos of elephants running from sounds, bunching, charging and some in which they do not respond with more than listening behavior. Playbacks are a tool for learning what these sounds mean.

The elephants’ responses showed just what a strong leader Ruby (from LA Zoo) has becomes and how tight the bonds are between the four elephants. PAWS can be extremely proud of the work they have done to facilitate the development of this family unit.

Trumpets, Joyce

We are once more getting close to the opening day of the legal case against Ringling Brothers Circus for their mistreatment of elephants, in which Joyce is one of the expert witnesses. The case has been mentioned a few times, the first being February 2007.

We hope that the case will go according to plan this time, and that it will be concluded with a positive outcome for elephants. The legal case against Ringling Brothers has been followed by the media for many years - this news piece on CBS4 from 4 January 2006 is one of very many examples.

Cheers, Petter

During the Monsoon the two reservoirs, or tanks, that are the focal points for the elephants of Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks, fill up so completely that there is little grassland for the elephants to venture out of the forest on to. And that makes viewing them difficult. Since this is the first year that these elephants have been studied, we are still learning their ranging patterns. Manori found that after the rains began most of the elephants disappeared from the tank shore, but a few families lingered on and were seen on a regular basis. Right now Manori is in the southern part of the country. She has been called to give evidence in an enchroament case involving the Uda Walawe National Park, which will be heard by the Supreme Court.

And a couple of photographs - note how green the grass is!

Sri Lanka elephant. Photo: Srilal Miththapala

Sri Lanka elephant. Photo: Srilal Miththapala

This story has been making the press and we hope to be able to bring you more news soon. Meanwhile, we are fortunate that there are so many elephant enthusiasts in Sri Lanka and one of them, Srilal Miththapala (who, incidently, has written a book on elephants and owns a beautiful eco-friendly lodge - Hotel Sigiriya - in the area) has kindly sent us some observations. So it seems as though some families (the same ones seen by Manori?) are still hanging out around the tanks. Once the rains stop the authorities will begin to use the water in the tanks for irrigation in an almost two thousand year old practice. As the water recedes so the elephants return once more to the fertile grassland, reaching a peak in numbers by August.

OBSERVATION OF ELEPHANTS by Srilal Miththapala:

13th January approx: 25 in Minneriya and 35 in Kaudulla

14th January approx: 20 in Minneriya and 25 in Kaudulla

15th January approx: 15 in Minneriya and 10 in Kaudulla

Joyce is currently in Washington DC to testify as expert witness in the legal case against Ringling Brothers Circus. She will be in court as the first witness tomorrow, Wednesday February 4th. The courtroom is open to the public.

The New York Times are among media that covers the suit - this article is from January 31st.

It is very sad that Echo, the Matriarch of our primary study group in Kenya, has died. She has been the leader of her family for over 36 years and through all of the research, books and media attention that has focused on her, she has become an icon for elephants.

Echo with Kilimanjaro behind. (©ElephantVoices) Our thoughts are with Echo's family - as this will be a disturbing time for them - with Cynthia, Soila, Norah, Katito and Robert in Amboseli, who have kept up with Echo's daily life for so many years. All of us who knew Echo have been touched by her gentleness and wisdom, and many of us have sought solace in her presence during difficult times.

Echo has been mentioned in a few of our posts. Whenever we think of the Amboseli elephants, we think of Echo. During our field visit in December 2007 - January 2008 we did worry about Echo - since she looked thin and weak - and we are convinced that the ongoing drought has contributed to her demise.

We feel priviledged having been able to spend so much time with this gentle, caring, and wise elephant, who has been such an excellent leader for the EB family for decades.


Echo and Emily Kate in January 2007. (©ElephantVoices)


Echo of the Elephants. (©ElephantVoices)


Echo, Enid and babies. (©ElephantVoices)

Listen to the voice of Echo in a Let's Go Call:

Thank you for your continued interest in the Amboseli elephants - Echo will live on as a symbol of them.

Kind wishes, Joyce and Petter

Joyce and Petter are going to Sri Lanka from 8th to 21th September, to have a look at some of Sri Lanka’s elephant populations together with a research team led by Lalith Seneviratne. Our main focus will naturally be elephant communication, acoustic recordings and comparison of African and Asian elephant calls. We will also be comparing ideas regarding the resolution of human-elephant conflict. Lalith and his team have come up with some new solutions which we hope to be able to apply around Amboseli. Several national parks will be visited including Uda Walawe, Yala East, Yala, Horton Plains, Minneriya and Wasgomuwa National Parks.

During the three last days of their stay they will join a symposium on Human Elephant Relationships and Conflicts in Colombo. The conference has drawn much interest from all parts of the world, and has attracted a record 82 (and some still coming) abstracts from people interested in elephants and their conservation. The abstracts have come from different parts of the world. Joyce will present our paper on visual, tactile and acoustic signals of elephant play.

Cheers, Petter/SEVP

We had a productive field trip to Amboseli between 18th and 26th October and a lot of good recordings were collected. The dry season is at its peak in Amboseli making it tough for both animals (except the carnivores) and people alike. But rain clouds were forming as we departed and we hope to soon have rain.

Dionysus 20 October 2003, the day before he  died. (©ElephantVoices)On Monday 20th we found Dionysus and stayed with him for quite some time. Dionysus was only able to eat a few Solanum leaves at a time and it was sad to see how weak he was. Dionysus was born in 1940, is estimated to be 63 years old and has probably fathered over 100 elephants in the Amboseli population. An ongoing DNA project will eventually be able to give us more specific information. Dionysus was in musth as late as in 2001, while his first recorded musth period was in February 1977. Undoubtedly he had been coming into musth for quite a number of years before that first observation, but we didn’t know about musth until then! That he was still coming into musth at 61 confirms that these older males are certainly not the reproductive “dead wood

We spent a few more field days in Amboseli in the first half of December. The short rains have failed, and we must accept that 2004 will be a difficult year for both humans and animals. With food and water in short supply the conflict between people and elephants is bound to increase.

In the last 5 weeks 6 elephants have been seen with unusual wounds on their legs; two of these elephants have died including one of our oldest and best known matriarchs, imposing Slit Ear who featured so prominently in Cynthia Moss’ 1988 book Elephant Memories. A decade or so ago moved her extended family to Kimana and has since lived in the heart of agricultural habitat. The other elephant who died was a visiting male from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. We are concerned that these new leg wounds may be the result of poisoned arrows – if so this will usher in a new and dangerous chapter in the history of the Amboseli elephants. The fast growing human population will increasingly put pressure on the elephant’s traditional habitat, and AERP is initiating a long-term project to attempt to reduce and prevent human-elephant conflict.

Our study elephants, the EBs, seemed to be in relatively good shape, and little E-mail (his mother Erin died after being speared in May) seems be coping fairly well in Eliot’s care despite intermittent days spent on his own. The ongoing drought in Amboseli reduces the elephants’ energy, which means less communication and fewer vocalizations to record thus we spent some of our time focusing on sound analysis and other project tasks in the research camp. AERP’s Soila Sayialel and Norah Njiraini have started collecting video for ElephantVoices, and together with Petter they will continue with this task through 2004.

Joyces inspecting bicycles and motorcycles  donated to  Amboseli/Tsavo Gamescouts Association together with its  field  coordinator Emmanuel Onetu. (©ElephantVoices) A rather unusual sight occurred in camp when two motorcycles, 6 mountain bikes and 30 bicycles were unloaded from a truck and “parked

Amboseli Christmas tree. (©ElephantVoices)Together with our daughter Selengei, Petter’s sons Thomas and Morten, and Joyce’s brother, Bob, and his wife, Gina, we (Joyce, Petter) spent 24th - 28th December in Amboseli. We had a joyous holiday and created an impromtu Christmas tree from palm fronds. Melding American and Norwegian Christmas traditions together allowed us to open presents both Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and share in the goodies from two cultures including Norwegian Christmas cookies, smoked salmon, and Aquavit and American roast turkey.

The snow on Kilimanjaro reached almost down to the “saddle

Over the last year ElephantVoices has focused a lot of attention on the development of a three-year project that will contribute toward finding solutions and tools to mitigate human elephant conflict. Petter, Hamisi Mutinda, and Joyce together wrote a proposal on behalf of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project that has recently received financial support from the US Fish and Wildlife, Born Free Foundation and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The project will be executed in affiliation with Kenya Wildlife Service and in close collaboration with Centre for Wildlife Management of the School for Field Studies. Petter will as main project initiater and member of its Steering Committee chaired by a KWS representative continue to follow the project, and be responsible for reporting to funding bodies and further grant proposals.

The kick-off of the project took place on 1 August with Winnie Kiiru as Project Manager and John Kioko as Project Researcher. Updates from the project will be included under the ElephantVoices Tools in Conservation section/HEC or Harmony, The Big Challenge.

The ability of a rapidly growing population of people to co-exist in relative harmony with wildlife is of major importance for the future of Amboseli’s elephants, as it is in most areas of the world that still boast populations of the world’s largest land mammal.

Cheers, Petter/ElephantVoices

It has been quieter on ElephantVoices than we would have wished over the last couple of months. The reason is that after living in Kenya for 35 years for Joyce and 5 years for Petter, we have decided to move to Sandefjord, Norway. This decision has been difficult and has mainly to do with a wish to be closer to family and friends in Norway, USA and the UK. Work wise our new location will give us some important advantages in this phase of the project. Broadband Internet connection in Norway, high-end technical solutions, and easier access to collaborators, will allow us to achieve results that have been more than challenging in Kenya.

During a visit to Norway in July/August Petter completed the interior of our new fully equipped office/lab in Norway, so when we move in mid October 2004 we should be able to get straight down to work. Two month-long visits to our field site in Amboseli National Park will be a part of our new yearly work regime. Our visits to Kenya and the field will also include other conservation efforts.

Joyce Poole will continue in her role as Research Director for the Amboseli Elephant Research Project. Petter Granli will continue on the steering committee and as a technical consultant of the HEC project (Mitigating human-elephant conflict in the Amboseli Ecosystem, Kenya) that he initiated.

Chimpanzee,  Mahale,  Tanzania. (©ElephantVoices)Samburu leopards playing. (©ElephantVoices)Two safaris during the summer months gave inspiration and some new perspectives. In June we visited Mahale Mountains on Lake Tanganyika with old family friends and were able to observe one of the few remaining populations of chimpanzees. A Japanese research team has followed these chimpanzees for nearly 40 years. In August Joyce visited Samburu and their elephants. This time the most significant impression was created by a couple of playful leopards – mother and daughter.

Cheers, Petter/ElephantVoices

During my visit to Kenya 16th to 30th January I spent 6 days in our research camp in Amboseli. Work and meetings related to our challenging project “Mitigating Human-Elephant Conflict in the Amboseli Ecosystem

Petter departs for Kenya and Amboseli for a two-week visit on 23rd August, mainly to work with the ongoing project, “Mitigating human-elephant conflict in the Amboseli Ecosystem

ElephantVoices’ Petter Granli visited Kenya from 23. August to 5. September 2005. The main purpose this time was to work with the ongoing project’ "Mitigating human-elephant conflict in the Amboseli Ecosystem", executed in close collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service and School for Management Studies in Kimana.

During his stay Petter and the Kenyan HEC team Winnie Kiruu and John Kioko met with Dr. Michelle Gadd and Dr. Herb Raffaele from US Fish and Wildlife, which together with Born Free Foundation and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) are the major project sponsors. Their meeting took place in Amboseli, where visits to test sites in Loitokitok and Kimana were included in the program. The visitors met enthusiastic representatives from the local communities involved as enumerators and vigilante groups in the project. The main goal for the project is to develop efficient tools and methods that local farmers can use to keep elephants away from their crops. You can read more about the HEC challenge here. Joyce is in Kenya/Amboseli from 11. to 29 September.

1. More and more farms gives less habitat for elephants and other wildlife, one main reason for the increased number of conflicts. 2. Project manager Winnie Kiruu and Petter Granli discussing by the Born Free project car. Born Free is one of the sponsors of the HEC project. Kiruu is starting on her PhD related to certain aspects of the HEC challenge in the beginning of October 2005. 3. Project researcher John Kioko and local farmer checking pilot trip wire in Kimana. 4. Pilot trip wire early warning system, Isinet. 5. USFWS representatives studying HEC observation tower. 6. Vigilante group preparing pilot chilli rope. 7. The HEC project has led to other types of local initiatives and collaborative efforts as well, here a tree nursery. 8. Testing sound device.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

The ElephantVoices team visited Thailand and the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation between 25th and 30th January 2006. The purpose of the visit was to observe the foundation’s work – introducing previously captive elephants to the 155 sq km forest of the Sublangka Wildlife Sanctuary in north-east Thailand.

The Asian elephant is highly endangered. In Thailand only five thousand elephants remain. Of this small “population

It's been rather quiet from us for some time, though not caused by a lack of activities or events. After a fantastic Norwegian summer and a lot of traveling from late August until a few days ago, we are now nailed down to our office chairs working on different important documents.

The main focus over the next couple of months will be work related to finalizing chapters for the upcoming book The Amboseli Elephants, A long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal. This book will present the findings accumulated over more than 30 years of research on the Amboseli elephant population. We hope that it will be available in late 2007 (University of Chicago Press). During a ten day visit to Amboseli with other ATE colleagues in August/September most of Joyce's time was allocated to the preparation of this book.

In addition to the book completion, elephant advocacy and welfare work continue to be high on the agenda. In mid September Joyce went to the US, where among other meetings she visited the Elephant Sanctuary in Nashville, Tennessee. In December 2005 she visited PAWS/Ark2000 in San Andreas, California. Both sanctuaries represent a safe haven for retired, rescued and/or abused elephants, and even though no-one can replicate a life in the wild these sanctuaries represent a great alternative for many of Americas circus and zoo elephants.


Above left: Joyce meets elephants at the Elephant Sanctuary. Middle: Carol Buckley, Elephant Sanctuary Director, Joyce and Deb Forthman. Right: Joyce and one of PAWS' eight elephants study one another, with PAWS director Pat Derby standing by.

Joyce and Petter will be in Amboseli for a four-week field trip in December/January, mainly recording and shooting photo/video for our communication study.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

THE CAPTURE OF ELEPHANT CALVES FOR ELEPHANT BACK SAFARIS AND CIRCUSES

Joyce flew to South Africa on 7/11 to attend a one day meeting on 8/11 organized by the Department of Environment and Tourism (DEAT) to discuss the capture from the wild and training of elephants for elephant back safaris and circuses. The object of the meeting was for DEAT to hear the differing opinions of the "Elephant Industy", animal welfare and elephant experts and to incorporate these into the revised Norms and Standards for the Management of South Africa's Elephants.

Joyce was invited to present her opinions as an elephant expert. This is the same process as the public discussions revolving around the culling (killing for population control) of elephants. Culling has received considerable international attention, but the public has been largely unaware of the inhumane treatment of elephants that goes on in the name of elephant back safaris. People have probably been unaware, too, that South Africa has circus elephants. On 12th November DEAT announced that it had decided that captive elephants don't come under their jurisdiction, rather they come under the Animal Protection Act. Unfortunately the APA is, apparently, notoriously weak.

At the moment the draft Norms and Standards will continue to allow the capture of elephants (calves taken from their families) and the training of these individuals for the "Elephant Industry". As yet the Minister is not aware of the negative impact that the continuation of these outdated practices may have on South Africa's image internationally. We're still trying to influence the final decision in this important matter. You will find our statements and letters related to this issue here.

EXPERT WITNESS IN CASE AGAINST CIRCUS

One example of the advocacy work Joyce does is her involvement as an expert witness in a lawsuit brought by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals, The Animal Protection Institute, and a former Ringling Brothers’ employee, Tom Rider, who worked as a barn man with the elephants for two and a half years, against Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Feld Entertainment (Ringling Brothers) for violations of the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The Asian elephants used by the circus are endangered species and the consortium argues that by chaining elephants and using bullhooks on them Ringling Brothers is violating U.S. law, which prohibits any conduct that “takes

You may want to read a recent post - "How can you tell when an elephant is listening?"

We wish all our friends and contacts Happy Easter!

Greetings, Petter

Back in 2003 Joyce and I visited Sri Lanka for a conference and to look into work carried out by Lalith Seneviratne and his team on human-elephant conflicts which was being sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. While we were there we had the good fortune to be taken on a two week safari by Lalith to visit five different national parks with elephants.

Our favourite place was Minneriya NP where, during the dry season, several hundred elephants gather to feed upon the new grass exposed by the receding waters of a reservoir. During the short time we were there we saw incredible behavior – a musth male, greetings, contact calling, a newly born infant brought to the car, a defensive wall of curious elephants and a female with all the personality you could ask for - like a good Amboseli experience. The female mentioned tried to chase tourists away, and for some reason didn't seem to realize that we were difference from normal visitors...! Check out a showing how she kicks our car in quite a clever manner (and breaks the light). Joyce recording in Minneriya with Lalith Seneviratne. (©ElephantVoices)
Joyce on left recording in Minneriya with Lalith in the driver's seat.

While we were in Sri Lanka we also met an unusual woman named Manori Gunawardena, who told us that she would like to study Asian elephant social behavior with us. She has many years of experience working in Yala with the elephant research group there as well as doing conservation work in both India and Sri Lanka - moving elephants and looking into landscape and corridor issues - but her true love is social behavior and she has wanted to start a project along the lines of Amboseli for many years.

Elephant enjoying the tank in Minneriya NP. (©ElephantVoices) Elephant enjoying the tank in Minneriya NP. (©ElephantVoices)
Group of elephants enjoying the tank in Minneriya NP built by elephants centuries ago.

Calf Minneriya National Park. (©ElephantVoices)Ever since then we have had the urge to do a study of Asian elephants, holding back both because of commitments in Kenya and the unrest on Sri Lanka. But now we're starting - in Minneriya-Kaudulla in North Central Sri Lanka - we believe it is urgent and are willing to go for it. Together with Manori we will develop and maintain a long-term study of social behavior and demography of the Minneriya-Kaudulla elephant population along the lines of the Amboseli study - naturally with a special focus on communication. We think that such a study - that uses the individual recognition approach - will benefit conservation and welfare of Asian elephants and is long overdue. And our involvement in this project will allow us to speak with more authority for both species. We will spend about a month a year in Minneriya and we are very excited about it! We'll continue our Amboseli work as well.

We are currently rebuilding ElephantVoices to include our new outlook and so that we can finally host more of our vocalization-related work (audio) – which will now include both species! Although human elephant conflict is significantly worse in Asia than it is in Africa, elephants in Asia benefit from the historic and cultural identity its people have with them. Visitors to Sri Lankan national parks are predominantly country nationals. Our Minneriya-Kaudulla Elephant Project will capitalise on this cultural identity with elephants by encouraging the public to participate in the study and by contributing educational material toward a special elephant program being developed for area schools. Making the project’s elephant ID database accessible online and stimulating local people and national park visitors to become familiar with individual elephants, to photograph them and to send in behavioral and geographical information, we aim to give people a sense of ownership and a connection with individual wild elephants. This exchange of information will provide the project with vital information about associations, behavior, habitat use and areas of conflict, while simultaneously inspiring wonder in the behavior and voices of elephants thus increasing understanding and decreasing conflict.

Group of elephants and tourist in Minneriya NP. (©ElephantVoices)
Lots of tourists visit the elephant "gathering" in beautiful Minneriya every year, a majority are Sri Lankans.

Manori has secured local funding for the start up of the project - more fund raising efforts will have to be on our agenda in the months to come. All contributions are highly welcome! We hope you will follow our new project closely. Joyce is joining Manori for a kick-off field-trip during second half of September.

Trumpets, Petter

Event  overview ElephantVoices in California Nov. 2008 As many of you have seen and know, Joyce and I will be visiting California from 6 to 20 November. Together with friends, supporters and collaborators we're holding several fundraisers, as you might have seen from the previously posted event overview. The timing is, admittedly, a bit more exciting than we planned - considering the global financial unrest. The election of a new US President a couple of days before our arrival may trigger some new optimism, though, which could be good for all of us, including elephants...

We lean towards a statement from one of our SF friends: At this stage it is much better to think about elephants than finances! And what we do know is that elephants need us more than ever - and even more so because of what may follow this economical downturn. If you would like more information about our work don't hesitate to get in touch. We're currently doing a major revision of elephantvoices.org, and hope to launch the new version during December after some unfortunate delays. During the next few months the site will be expanded in ways that we believe many of you will like and find interesting, especially if you enjoy the voices of elephants. It will also include interactive information about our new elephant conservation project in Sri Lanka. Another of our goals is to improve how you can access and subscribe to our news. Please be patient while we are preparing the changes!

We hope you will follow the work of ElephantVoices in the years to come - it would be great to see you in person during our upcoming fundraising tour!

Best wishes, Petter

Female  elephant in Minneriya, Sri Lanka. (©ElephantVoices)

Dear ElephantVoices News subscribers and Visitors

We have recently sent out our Year End Letter for 2008, which you will find here.

Some formatting has disappeared while being converted from a newsletter to a web page, but that cannot be helped... While we continue to work hard with our new ElephantVoices website and other tasks on the priority list, we are also preparing for our upcoming Kenya visit. Petter will stay for six weeks, and look very much forward to spending more time with the Amboseli elephants. Joyce will be there in March, and in June and September/October we're planning to be in Sri Lanka.

Please stay put as subscriber until we have uploaded the new elephantvoices.org - you can then decide how you would prefer to continue to follow our work.

We wish you a festive holiday season and hope for a peaceful 2009 for all creatures!

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce

We're getting very close to Christmas and the end of the year, and want to use this opportunity to send warm wishes and a heart felt thank you to all of you around the world who support elephants and our work financially or in other ways. Our best wishes and thanks also go to all those who work so hard to protect the many species in need - keep up the good work!

We had a good time during our hectic lecture and fundraising trip in California in November - and we are extremely grateful for all the warm hospitality, good friendship and generosity we experienced during our two week visit. The global financial crisis does not create the best atmosphere in which to raise funds, but the new American President (elect) and a newborn Obama in Amboseli keep us optimistic!

Cooking  party Sausalito. Photo: PartiesThatCook
Vegetarian cooking party at our friend Coco's house in Sausalito 8 November, a lively event to promote the interests of elephants and the work of ElephantVoices. (Photo: PartiesThatCook)

From ElephantVoices event in Pacific Palisades
For a second year in a row we enjoyed the warm hospitality of Patty and Doug (and their 6 dogs) during a vegan reception at their home in Pacific Palisades, 16 November. (Photo: Tim Stahl)

It's been a very busy year, as usual, which you can read more about in our End Year letter. In 2009 we intend to spend about half of our time on our new Sri Lankan project, a quarter on our Amboseli work and the remainder on advocacy. Petter and/or I will be in the field in Kenya in January, and part of February and March, and in Sri Lanka in June and again in September. Manori Gunawardena will be in Minneriya-Kaudulla throughout the year and Blake Murray will be helping us to collect and analyze data in Amboseli. Public awareness and education are elements that runs through all of our work, so you will continue to hear from us whether we are in the field or not.

Captive elephant
As advancements in science contribute to our growing understanding of elephants we continue to put substantial time and effort into influencing welfare policy so that elephant interests are met. The elephant Watoto (Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle) in the photo is blurred due to stereotypical swaying - a behavior that expresses the massive frustration caused by confinement. (Photo: Alyne Fortgang)

Elephant Sri Lanka

Amboseli elephants

During 2009 we look forward to being with our long-term elephant friends in Amboseli, Kenya, and with our new acquaintences in Minneriya-Kaudulla, Sri Lanka. And, of course, to working with our colleagues in Amboseli and with Manori and our many new colleagues in Sri Lanka. The survival of wild elephants depends on finding a balance between the needs of people and elephants - a task that requires the collaborative work of people all over the world. In order to find ways for people and elephants to co-exist in Minneriya-Kaudulla we must start by defining the basic needs of an elephant population that seems to number over 1,000 individuals rather than the previous estimate of 450 - we have our work for 2009 cut out for us!

We wish you all a festive holiday season and a peaceful 2009 for all creatures! Link to Christmas decoration

Warm Greetings, Joyce and Petter

Hi out there,

I was traveling when the ElephanVoices blog was set up so this is my first entry.

It is a very busy time for us because we are preparing for a month-long field trip to Amboseli and at the same time we have been on the road so much during November. Petter to Brazil and Denmark and me to South Africa and the United States. I was in Pretoria, South Africa, in early November as an invited expert to a meeting evaluating the ethics of capturing and training wild African elephant calves for elephant back safaris and circuses (more later). And then I was in Florida last week for an inspection of Ringling Brothers Circus as part of my expert witness report for a legal case against Ringling for their treatment of Asian elephants (more later).

Now that I am back in the office I am working hard to prepare our stimulus "tapes" (really MP3 files) for playback experiments that we plan to carry out in Amboseli. Playbacks (playing back the calls of elephants to elephants) allow you a window into the minds of animals. We have some ideas about the meanings of some of the elephant calls and we want to test whether we are correct in our supposition. It is extremely dry in Amboseli because the long rains failed in March/April and its not looking good for the short rains either - they should have started in mid November. When is it extremely dry the elephants have very little energy and are less likely to respond to playbacks - so we will have to play it by ear, so to speak, and may postpone the experiments for another time.

Nevertheless, there is always plenty to do in Amboseli. We have numerous meetings scheduled with our colleagues as well as with the students who are involved in various elephant studies there. And any spare moment we will be out observing elephants and recording their voices!

Trumpets, Joyce

The rainy season is a time for elephants to gather in large aggregations, for socializing, for mating and for traveling to new pastures. Although there has been very little rain inside the Park boundaries, there has been rain on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Hundreds of elephants have been coming into the park to meet and to drink and have been traveling far out of the park to greener habitats. Many of the groups coming into the central part of the park are families who frequent the far western part of the ecosystem. In fact, some are families, who, ten years ago left Amboseli and moved across the border into the woodlands on the western side of Kilimanjaro. So it has been fun to see some of these old friends and it has meant that the last days of 2007 have been very productive for our playback experiments.

One of the many “western

We must admit that it feels strange to continue our research here in Amboseli while the situation in the country is dire and so many people are facing terrible hardship. In between our early morning and late afternoon sessions with the elephants we are glued to the BBC World Service via our satellite radio in our tent. People we meet are tense and anxious, and fewer and fewer visitors are to be seen here in the park. The unrest is already having a huge impact on Kenya’s economy.

With news, text messages and talking to our friends and colleagues as sources of information we are trying to decide what our next move should be. As long as the best alternative seems to be to stay put, we will continue to do what we came here for. On a personal level our biggest challenge is how to safely meet up with our daughter, Selengei, who is at the Kenya coast with friends, 450 km away. With insecurity around the country, communication difficulties and food and fuel shortages it isn’t clear what the best alternative is and our plans change on a daily basis. We are keep crossing our fingers for a sensible political solution sooner rather than later.

We are fortunate to be in Amboseli during a period when hundreds of elephants have been coming into and out of Longinye Swamp every day. The typical pattern is for the elephants to come in as individual family or bond groups, and to go out as larger aggregations. It is very peaceful here and it sometimes feels strange to acknowledge that the elephants have no notion whatsoever about the conflict in the country.

One of the many birds who visit our breakfast and lunch table is a Hildebrant’s Starling that we have named “One Leg

Our return to Norway and our office took quite some time. At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Sunday morning we were told that our flight had already left – Petter’s ticket showed a departure time that had obviously been changed. Our rather annoying option was to take KLM’s next flight that evening, which meant 14 hours of waiting at the airport. For the time being KLM does not consider it safe for their crews to stay overnight in Nairobi. As a consequence we had to fly to Amsterdam via Dar es Salaam, where we refueled and received a new crew. We arrived in Sandefjord 20 hours later than expected, but our joyful reunion with our Border Collie, Malita, erased the extra hours.

Our month long field trip was very productive. We both have high expectations and Joyce’s exuberance sometimes means that she plans for more than we can achieve without stress. With so many of the western and Tanzanian elephant families visiting the central part of the park, we were able to accomplish all of the playbacks we had planned for in good time. Even though the current unrest prevented us from completing the ATE’s new Elephant ID database, we are very pleased with its development. We expect that it will be ready for field testing in the next few weeks.

We continue to follow with deep concern and interest the political and humanitarian crisis in Kenya. A solution that provides the basis for a peaceful and prosperous future, rather than a quick fix, is vital for all. And even if such an agreement can be made, the trust and bonds between Kenyans as individuals and as communities must be rebuilt and strengthened. We are looking at a long process.

Dusty Amboseli National Park. (©ElephantVoices)
Our last days in Amboseli saw more and more dust devils. Rain is much needed – it was flooding at this time last year. (©ElephantVoices)

Amboseli drinking in swamps. (©ElephantVoices)
Amboseli National Park swamps are always a good alternative for thirsty elephants and other animals. (©ElephantVoices)

Joyce and Petter in Amboseli Research Camp. The next few months promises to be busy. Analysis of our playbacks (audio and video), writing papers, making additions to our photo library, updating our visual and tactile signals database, educational outreach and selected elephant welfare challenges, will fill our days in the months to come. In addition there is always a flow of incoming e-mails and elephant related requests that we do our best to respond to.

Thank you again for being with us in Amboseli, and we hope that you will continue to visit our blog and ElephantVoices throughout the year!

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a posting on 1st January I mentioned that we had seen in the central part of the park many of the families that live in the western corner of the park and in Tanzania. As Amboseli's elephant population has grown, and as protection for them has increased, elephants have been moving further afield. The National Park is only 390 sq km and yet Amboseli's population roams over some 5,000 sq km. One of "our" males has been radio tracked by Alfred Kikoti over near Lake Natron, Tanzania and another one was seen near Mtito Andei (both more than 150 km away).

Hazel and  family in front of Kilimanjaro.  (©ElephantVoices)Several Amboseli family groups have moved to Tanzania and now live near the village of Tinga-Tinga 20 km south of the border. It is always exciting to see these individuals "on safari" in the center of the park. Over the years, one or two families have been able to move from the drier west into the more productive central part of the park - in elephant terms this is equvalent to moving into a better neighbourhood, moving up in society. This is because elephants in the central part of the park are more successful in reproductive terms than are those in the west. One family (once two families in a bond group) is the HBBC group.

The HB family was once led by the beautiful and elderly Horatia. Horatia's daughter, Hazel, is now matriarch, a beauty in her own right. We met her several times during our stay. Her long straight tusks are exquisite and almost as thick and long as her mother's once were.

Joyce, photos by Petter

Hazel’s beautiful tusks
Hazel's beautiful tusks.

Many of you have seen or heard that the South African Government has taken some major decisions regarding the future management of the country's elephants. These are detailed in a document entitled the Norms and Standards for Elephant Management in South Africa. The good news is that from 1st May 2008 the capture of wild elephants for commercial exhibition purposes, such as elephant back safari industries or circuses, will be prohibited.

In his speech on TV the Environment Minister unequivocally stated that they were "putting the lid" on the elephant back safari industry and that although no existing operation would be shut down, all operators would have to abide by standards for the care of elephants. The Minister has included a provision for an appendix to be developed in 12 months for "Minimum Standards" for the existing 112 or so captive elephants. Furthermore, the Norms and Standards will also prohibit the import and export of elephants destined for captivity, and will prevent artificial breeding of elephants in captivity.

Joyce and ElephantVoices have been involved in the discussions surrounding culling and capture/training of elephants in South Africa over many years. In 2006 Joyce and Petter were among signatories on a statement on culling by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. Joyce has also been closely involved in the debate surrounding the capture and training of wild calves - first in the Tuli case, for which Joyce appeared in court in 1998 on behalf of the elephants, then in the Selati case in 2006. Most recently, Joyce was invited as an expert to attend a workshop in November 2007 held by the Environment Ministry to discuss the development of the Norms and Standards. She followed up with an open letter to the Minister.

The Ministry of Environment has agreed to many of the recommendations made. That they have prohibited the capture of wild elephants for the captive market, have prohibited the import and export of wild elephants destined for captivity, and have prohibited the artificial breeding of elephants in captivity is certainly a positive step for elephants. Furthermore, the Ministry has said that culling will be a management tool of last resort. Although the media is focused on the reopening of culling, we believe that South Africa's approach to elephants has come a very long way from the early 1990s.

The open process of discussion and the genuine change in outlook and opinions is a positive development, despite the fact that some conclusions of the document go against our wishes. The bottom line, in our view, is that until we, human beings, accept to draw real limits on our own population expansion and consequent resource requirements (and emissions), we will be forced into unethical practices. The culling of elephants is only one of many. Are we ever going to accept any limits on our behavior and use of resources?

Rumblings, Petter and Joyce

Petter and I have been making real progress on a project that we have wanted to accomplish for a long time. After some research we bought ACDC Pro 2 - a photograph manager and database. For years we have struggled to locate particular photographs among the tens of thousands of images we have in our collection. Now we are going through all of them, putting them into categories and giving them key words so that we can easily search for an image and locate it later. This is especially important for updating our online database on elephant displays and behaviors, but also for putting together lectures and even for bringing you a specific image to illustrate an event, behavior or individual.

Furthermore, we have recently completed a searchable elephant ID database for the Amboseli Elephant Research Project. Just now I was struggling to remember the names of two elephants in a photograph taken at some distance. I could just make out that one had a flap-cut on her right ear. So, I keyed in "female, flap-cut middle right ear" and searched through the 15 or so individuals who came up and, presto: the two females were Kaliope and Keely of the KB family! I do love it when things work!

We will continue to put some of our photos online - hopefully for you to enjoy.

To study elephant communication it is crucial to understand the body language of elephants - for these are clues to what might happen next. Petter and I are pretty good at anticipating what elephants are about to do and have built up a database where you can learn all about the signals, postures and gestures of elephants. We are currently updating this database so you may want to keep an eye out for new additions.

One of many important cues we use is watching for listening behavior. Since elephants can communicate over long distances, and since some of their communication is inaudible to us (but audible to the elephants), this behavior is a cue that the listening elephant has heard something, or someone, and might call in answer. So what are the cues we use to tell that an elephant is listening? An elephant rarely stands stock still except when listening or resting; usually some part of the body, ears, trunk, tail is in motion. A resting elephant relaxes it’s head and ears allowing its head to hang below its shoulders and its ears to flop forward. A listening elephant, on the other hand, stands with its head raised and its ears lifted and slightly extended. The body and extremities of a listening elephant suddenly stop moving, and it simultaneously raises its head and stiffens its ears. Sometimes an elephant may turn its head from side to side in an attempt to localize a sound.

Have a look at these photographs of listening elephants.

Three-Holes listens. (©ElephantVoices)
Three-Holes listens.

A juvenile female and two calves raise their heads suddenly as they hear a sound of interest. (©ElephantVoices)
A juvenile female and two calves raise their heads suddenly as they hear a sound of interest.

Beckwith listens after calling to her family. (©ElephantVoices)
Beckwith listens after calling to her family.

An adult female listens, and turns her head from side to side attempting to localize a distant call. (©ElephantVoices)
An adult female listens, and turns her head from side to side attempting to localize
a distant call. Put on your headphones and listen to the sound linked below. You will
hear a distant elephant calling, followed by an answer from the listening female.
{audio}c2303515_contact_call_ Erin1_48.mp3{/audio}

Hopefully your computer are connected to a sound system, or you have access to headphones!

Musth male, Solonga, listens in for the sounds of distant females in his search for mates. (©ElephantVoices)
Musth male, Solonga, listens in for the sounds of distant females in his search for mates.

Trumpets, Joyce

Hi all,

I am in a philosophical mood today. I am generally full of enthusiasm - a trait that runs in my family, but I must admit to feeling disheartened when I look at the state of the planet. I am curious about what you think about the following: Elephants are a species of extremes. They are the world's largest land mammal, and arguably among its most social, most intelligent, most long-lived, most charismatic and, particularly Asian elephants, among its most endangered. Elephants have been called a flagship species - because if we can protect them, put aside enough space for them, we are saving whole ecosystems.

Joyce Poole. (©ElephantVoices)Yet, almost everywhere you look, elephants are losing ground to the onslaught of human "progress"; elephants are under threat because one species, Homo sapiens, is taking more than its share of the planet's resources. I often think to myself, if we cannot save elephants, then what hope do we have of saving the myriad other species that are threatened with extinction?

Yesterday, as I watched the news and listened to fishermen protesting the closure of wild salmon fishing along the west coast of the US, I was reminded of the time when Japanese carvers protested the closure of the ivory trade because it threatened their businesses. Yes, it did, it will, but then again, if we continue to consume and consume, won't everything get used up at some point anyway? And then what? Why can't we put on the brakes now and save what we've got? Why can't we reduce our population growth, even our population size!

We are the largest brained species on the planet. We are the most intelligent, but you have to wonder at the individual and collective decisions we make. If the scales are always weighted toward the rights and needs of humans, in the long term we will be the ultimate losers. In the corridors of power, in the board rooms, the international conference rooms, politicians and policy makers, need to start making sensible decisions, they need to act now for the future of our planet, for our future. We need to make our voices heard. We can make a difference, we must!

Joyce

'There was still in Africa a marvelous, irresistible freedom. Only it belonged to the past, not the future. Soon it will go. There'll no longer be herds swirling against the forests and crushing them in their passage. The elephants were the last individuals.' Romain Gary, Roots of Heaven, 1958

We would like to inform all ElephantVoices friends that we will be in California on a fundraising trip later this year. We plan to be in the San Francisco from 7 to 14 November and in Los Angeles 14 - 20 November. We are already busy planning various events.

If you are from California we would certainly be grateful for ideas or input regarding our visit - and you can also send an email to us if you want to be invited to any of the events being arranged. Our research on elephant cognition and communication, our scientific and popular publications, our advocacy work for elephants, our website updates are all dependent on individuals like you.

To continue to protect elephants we need your support.

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce

Hi again,

I apologize for the long gap in elephants sounds. I got to a point where I was forced to make a whole series of new spectrograms for the work we're doing toward an online database of elephant calls, in addition to working with a continues flow of issues related to elephant conservation and welfare. The spectrograms of some of the rarer calls had not yet been uploaded to our current offline database and many needed first to be made. I had to make over 200 of them and each one is quite time consuming.

The last time I wrote about how elephants use sound to intimidate predators I mentioned what I call a trumpet blast. In addition, they have a couple of other powerful calls in their bag of frightening tricks! The roars elephants produce when they are scaring off lions are deafening! One of the early elephant scientists, Sylvia Sykes commented that these sounds could put "fear in the hearts of men." Indeed they can!

I was out with the EB family one day when Enid came upon a pride of lions resting under a small Acacia. With one incredible roar from her the lions ran off. When you listen to the sound she made notice how Enid begins to rumble and then takes a deep breath before roaring at the lions. Notice, too, that after she inhales she starts with a short rumble, then roars and then ends again with a rumble. We call this type of concantenated call a rumble-roar-rumble.

Can you hear the difference between the trumpet blast and the roar? Enid roars at a group of lions resting under an Acacia:
{audio}elephantvoices_enid_deafening_roar.mp3{/audio}

Thank you, Michelle P and Anna M, for your continued support! And thank you Nathalia! Your support is very much appreciated.

Petter and I wish you all a great weekend!

Joyce

Comments from TheTeach on a previous ElephantVoices post have inspired me to post a few reflections.

What each and one of us have to do is to decide what we believe in - which values we want to stand and fight for - which attitudes we want to show towards other creatures like elephants. But in the industrialized world we can afford to think like this. In many poor countries millions of people have a different reality in their everyday life - they're struggling to survive. Human-elephant conflicts and destruction of habitat often symbolizes that we're not able to accept certain limitations in terms of resources and land - and that local politicians and the global community not have been able to find the balance between the needs of people and other animals. Bad governance, corruption and lack of land use planning and/or it's implementation are often strongly contributing factors, but let me not go into that.

Photo from Joyce and Petter visit to Thailand  February 2006. (©ElephantVoices)It's "unpolitical" to talk about the lack of political drive worldwide to discuss and deal with the human population growth, but from my perspective this topic will have to come higher on the agenda if we want to keep elephants (and other wildlife) for future generations. Poverty reduction is another key, closely connected to population growth. Elephants are certainly also about tourism and revenue, and thereby work places and economical growth, so in principle we would all gain on conserving them. OK - let me stay out of more politics for now - and go back to some of TheTeach's comments. Hairy  Asian elephant. (©ElephantVoices)

Since Thailand introduced anti-logging laws in 1988/89 many elephants have ended up on the streets with their mahouts. I do agree that many mahouts have a close and compassionate relationship with their elephants, but it is also a fact that the methods used to "break" the elephant to get them to do what's expected in the first place is brutal and unacceptable from an elephant welfare perspective. Some projects are working on getting street-elephants or abused elephants back to semi wild conditions - we visited one of these projects a couple of years ago. One very interesting aspect with this particular project is that they employ and retrain the mahouts as field staff, to secure them a job and also make the transition for the elephants more easy.

Another remark: Thailand probably have around 3,000 captive (so called domesticated) elephants today, and less than 2,000 wild, compared to respectively 11,000 and 30,000 fifty years ago. But such figures and percentages are symbolic for the destiny of the elephant also elsewhere.
Male flirting with females in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka. (©ElephantVoices)
Male elephant flirting with several females in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka.

Keep up your efforts TheTeach and others fighting for elephants - they need our help!

Best wishes, Petter

15/09/08
I arrived in Sri Lanka in the afternoon and Manori was at the airport to meet me. We had an hour long drive through traffic to the other side of town to her parent's home where I was given a very warm welcome. Afternoon tea is a tradition here, just as in Kenya, and so I immediately felt at home!

That evening we were invited to Lalith and Ayanthie Seneviratne's home for a dinner gathering with many of the friends Petter and I had made during our visit to Sri Lanka in 2003. A special surprise guest was Mohamed who had accompanied us on the safari we took around the national parks. Mohamed, who has an extraordinary connection with elephants was then warden of Yala East National Park and we learned so much from him. The evening was very jolly - a guitar appeared and we ate a delicious meal prepared by Ayanthie.

ElephantVoices  team  visiting Sri Lanka in 2003 - Yala East National Park. (©ElephantVoices)ElephantVoices  team  visiting Sri Lanka in 2003 - Yala East National Park. (©ElephantVoices) ElephantVoices visits Yala East National Park on Sri Lanka's eastern coast in 2003. We had a fantastic experience there thanks to our friend Lalith Seneviratne (right) and our extraordinary host, R. Myunideen Mohamed then Park Warden. The parks had just been reopened following two decades of civil unrest, but was hard hit by the Tsunami in December 2004. Mohamed's family were among the many who lost everything but their lives.

All the Park's staff saved themselves, some by running side by side with water buffaloes. The elephants had left for higher ground earlier. The park's new headquarters was submerged in five feet of water, but a miracle saved them from major damage. (©ElephantVoices)

16/09/08
Elephants  by Minneriya tank. (©ElephantVoices)This morning Manori and I got up early and drove to the northern side of Colombo to meet with the Director of Wildlife, Mr. Wijaysooryie. We had a very useful hour long meeting during which we discussed a variety of elephant issues including human elephant conflict, elephant habitat and what to do about elephants being hit by trains. Then we continued on our way north toward Minneriya. The drive was long and the traffic heavy, and I was really feeling jet-lagged. My system is very confused having come from Washington by way of Norway! Stops along the way for fresh passion fruit juice and samosas made me feel I was back in the tropics!

Manori is still looking for a place to set up our base and meanwhile the Hotel Sigiriya has generously given us two beautiful rooms free of charge. So I am writing this having been given a frangipani flower for my hair, a refreshing fruit drink, a cooled and scented face towel, a cup of tea and having done 10 laps in the pool. All this while being entertained by macaques stealing our sugar and langurs knocking over the furniture. Stay tuned for the next installment.....

Hi all,

Manori and I arrived in the Minneriya area on evening of 16th. I have been bowled over at the generosity of people here. A friend of Manori's owns the Hotel Sigiriya which is about a 30 minute drive through the forest to Minneriya and he very kindly invited us to stay free of charge until we have set up our own base here. So we are very fortunate to have access to a swimming pool (except we have been too busy to use it), great food and incredible service - not to mention internet and electricity for charging all of our gadgets. We are so grateful. It's also good to know that many are showing interest in the project - including funding bodies. World renown Dilmah Tea, through Dilmah Tea Conservation, have already come on board, which gives us lots of energy in this early phase.

17/09/09
This morning we departed early to meet with the Warden of Minneriya National Park - we had very good discussions about the various threats to elephant conservation. Manori had arranged for me to give a lecture on African elephant behavior to a group of 20 or so of the park staff. The park has recently built a beautiful visitor center and auditorium designed by an award winning Sri Lankan architect. The auditorium was open on the sides and really stunning. The talk went well and Manori followed up by giving a presentation on the characteristics used to indentify Asian elephants. We had already gone over all of this material together since the three of us (with Petter) have been working to build a searchable online database - so I was busy taking photographs of Manori speaking. I should have paid more attention. Identifying Asian elephants has required me to reprogram my brain - and it isn't working too well yet!

Then into the park and out with the elephants. They appeared from the forest, as if by clockwork, at 14:00. More and more groups appeared but we focused on four - a bull we named Suddha because of his white tail hairs, two cow-calf groups and one larger mixed (adult males with the cows and calves) - these included 7, 9 and 45 elephants, respectively. I got to work right away - trying to photograph, age, sex and make sense of who was who, and who was with whom. I got befuddled pretty quickly and it wasn't just jet lag. I am used to looking at tusks which give an overall appearance to an elephant, as well as being a good indicator of age and sex. Well, these elephants don't have them - among all the elephants we saw only one male had tusks. So imagine trying to make sense of scores of tuskless elephants. I really felt I had lost my touch.

Meanwhile Manori worked away quite happily - which was a little demoralizing! Hopefully I will slowly catch up...

Trumpet, Joyce

18/09/08

This morning Manori and I worked on our ID photos from the previous afternoon and then had a meeting to discuss various aspects of the project. After that we had an early lunch of fruit and soup and then gathered our things and headed toward the park. The elephants are in the forest in the morning so this allows us to do much needed office work without feeling like we are missing anything. Today was better for me - I recognized some of the females we had seen the day before MK  group.  (©ElephantVoices)including a "pretty" female with a scoop out of her right ear, a female with elongated ear lobes and another with a small cup-shaped notch out of her left ear. They were all in a group of 12 elephants (not a perfect count, however) though yesterday two of these females had been in the group of 7 elephants, and the "pretty" female had been in the group of 9. Mmmmm - one large family, or...the plot thickens!

Then we saw a big group of 31 elephants with a couple of small calves and a large female with a very torn left ear. She will be easily recognizable again. With her was a female with very pink edges to her ears....and many more. A group of 16 elephants included a large female with a hole in her left ear. Large MK female with hole in ear.  (©ElephantVoices)This had some drivers nervous because there is a female with a hole in her left ear that is aggressive - so all females with holes in their left ear are "the female with the hole in her left ear" and cause for concern! She seemed very calm to me and may be confused with the female who chased vehicles and kicked our car back in 2003 - she had a hole in her left ear....

All the groups we were with today were cow-calf groups - in other words mothers and their calves without any adult males. Now I have to stop - its 23:33 and I have to be ready to use my brain again tomorrow! 19/09/08 Manori and I spent the morning working on budgets. At 10:30 were joined by colleagues for more elephant discussions, we had lunch and then set out for another afternoon with elephants. It was fabulous! The elephants were extra ordinarily close this time and there was lots of interesting behavior. A musth male visited the group, passing within a couple of meters of the car several times.

Big MK male. (©ElephantVoices)I thought you would enjoy reading some of the comments I made on the dictaphone as I was watching:

15:58 OK, got some fantastic behavior here as the musth male is moving through the group testing, females squeaking, some females testing one another, females putting trunks into one another's mouths, and then as the musth male moved to another part of the group again the females began rumbling and ear flapping, so its quite similar to african elephants. Its not a modulated rumble, though, rather quite flat.

 

Manori and  Joyce in Minneriya NP.15:59 Something very different.... the musth male is testing a female and is trying to bite her tail and she's pulling her tail away, he grabs it again, so some subtly different behaviors...our (African) males don't do that!

16:11 Ok so suddenly heard some short squeaky kind of trumpet, a kind of trump, and ah the elephants moving toward something in the grass with their trunks raised, and then I guess Manori saw a jackal running away so this group of about 5 elephants went following after the jackal so again similar kind of behavior to African elephants.

Rumbles, Joyce

20/09/08
This morning Manori and I tried to solve some computer problems, sorted through ID photos and worked on a budget for the overall project. Our project will have quite a number of different components - social structure and demography, social behavior and communication, habitat use and movement patterns - with each of these informing recommendations for the design of a conservation landscape for this population of elephants. The area the elephants use is a mosaic of different patches of landuse types - national park, sanctuary, forest reserve, farmland and villages and small towns.

This afternoon we drove to a second national park, Kaudulla, about an hour from where we are staying, to see if we could find elephants there. Along the way the jeep that we had borrowed broke down with clutch problems. We managed to get into the park in another vehicle and, after some searching, found a couple of elephant groups. The first was a group of 10 males - including one just coming into musth and one young tusker (since very few males in Sri Lanka have tusks this is always noteworthy). Around the corner from this group was a large mixed group (cows, calves and associating males). They were disturbed by the presence of several jeeps and were making quite a commotion. We waited quietly for them to calm down and then approached.

But one young male came charging out of the forest again and gave us a lively challenge. From my dictaphone notes: 17:44 I took some photographs of a young male who was demonstrating, threatening us and instead of doing that, sort of running at you and then kicking dust or throwing dust at you [that African elephants do in similar circumstances], they [Asian elephants] tend to collect dust [with their trunk and feet], kick the dust, and while standing in one pace throw the dust over their head in a display.

Throwing dust display 1. (©ElephantVoices)
Throwing  dust display 2. (©ElephantVoices)
Throwing  dust display 3. (©ElephantVoices)

As I sit at my desk writing this piece I can hear explosions in the distance: villagers trying to chase male elephants out of their farms.....

Joyce

Manori and I had two fantastic last days - one in Kaudulla N.P. and one in Minneriya N.P. In Kaudulla we were fortunate to observe some very interesting defensive behavior during which we were confronted by a wall of elephants. One young female expressed her alarm at our presence by wide-eyed staring and by excited squeaking.

Sri Lanka elephants. (©ElephantVoices)

In Minneriya we were treated to an aggregation of 53 elephants. The group split and reformed as elephants went about their business: cooling down in the reservoir, splashing in the water, young males sparring, a musth male testing females, calves suckling and getting lost.

Sri Lanka  elephants. (©ElephantVoices)

Sri Lanka elephant shrine. (©ElephantVoices)As the crow flies these two national parks are about 8 km apart, but it takes almost forty minutes to drive from one to the other. Along the way Manori and I stopped to pay our respects at the many shrines to Ganesh.

Kaudulla and Minneriya are separated by forest reserve, which includes a couple of small villages, and are surrounded by a mosaic of different habitat types - some protected, some unprotected. One of the goals of our project will be to understand how the elephant population is using this landscape so that the authorities can better provide for their conservation and at the same time reduce conflict with people. In order to do that we need to know exactly how many elephants there are, and who is moving where, when. We also need to know whether the population is increasing or decreasing. Because the habitat is primarily forest it isn't possible to get an accurate count. The only way to get solid answers is, therefore, to get to know the elephants individually - which is why we have been so very busy taking ID photographs.

Later in the year we will be able to introduce you to some of these elephants via an online identification database. In the meantime, just looking at the elephants gives a couple of clear indications. If the population is growing it is at a much slower rate than in Amboseli, as there are relatively fewer calves and juveniles to adults. And males over approximately 20 years old are covered in bumps caused by buckshot. They are the big raiders.

It's been an extremely interesting and busy visit. In addition to getting to know the elephants we had a number of important meetings and discussions with the Wildlife Department and others. Link  to  Dilmah Conservation I gave two lectures - one to the Wildlife Department staff in Minneriya and the other in Colombo to the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society.

On our last day Manori and I had a meeting with Dilmah Tea, whose Conservation Foundation is supporting our work. I planted a tree on the grounds of their main office in Colombo to commemorate the beginning of our joint endeavor for elephant conservation.

Sri Lanka elephants. (©ElephantVoices)

It's been a great pleasure to experience the Sri Lankan warmth and enthusiasm - everyone we have met has been very welcoming and helpful. This includes the management and staff at Hotel Sigiriya, who have welcomed us back to our new "home". Petter and I are looking forward to what lies ahead with renewed commitment. Working with Manori is a great pleasure and we feel fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from someone with so much experience. Manori moves in an unusual circle of wildlife and elephant enthusiasts and we have slipped into this crowd with ease!

Trumpets, Joyce

Having been prepared for 8 years the lawsuit against Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Feld Entertainment (Ringling Brothers) for violations of the U.S. Endangered Species Act, is finally going to trial starting Monday, 27 October, 2008. The suit is brought by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals, The Animal Protection Institute, and a former Ringling Brothers’ employee, Tom Rider, who worked as a barn man with the elephants for two and a half years.

Joyce is an expert witness in the trial for the plaintiffs and is scheduled to testify on Monday. The case is being heard in federal court in Washington DC, in courtroom 24A, and is expected to last for approximately three weeks. The court proceedings are open to the public.

A few hours after Joyce arrived in Washington DC she got the message that the court case mentioned in last posting is delayed, and that it may be set to spring 2009.

Flying from Norway to Washington and back in 3 days isn't the best way to spend a long weekend - but not much to do...

Dear elephant friends!

For those of you living in the US: Sandip Roy Chowdhury will be talking with Joyce Poole on "New America Now: Dispatches from the New Majority," which airs Friday Nov 14th at 1:00 p.m. and repeats Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on KALW, 91.7 FM.

You can hear an interview with Joyce on AnimalVoices, an alternative radio in Vancouver, via the player below. The interview with Karl Losken was aired on 31st October.
{audio}2008-10-31.mp3{/audio}

At 4 am this morning we were awoken by two alarm clocks - not wanting to risk that one would let us down. A couple of hours later we departed for our two week event and fundraising tour in California. We're looking forward to see friends, elephant supporters and even elephants (at PAWS, where we have a joint event on Saturday 15th Nov.), while at the same time experience the excitement of an historical election. With strong roots in Kenya (and plenty of other good reasons, too) no-one should be surprised that we are happy that Barack Obama will soon be the new President of the United States of America. We are among those convinced that he will strengthen America in a way that will be good for everyone. Barack is Kiswahili for blessing and he is indeed a blessing.

Waiting at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam for our next flight, we watched another BBC news piece describing the impact of increased ivory poaching on the world's biggest land mammal - and expressing fears that the recent ivory auctions, sanctioned by CITES, will stimulate that growing threat. More and more elephants are succumbing to poaching fueled by the ivory trade and the press needs to bring this to the world's attention. Despite difficult times for the financial markets around the world, and for most of us as a consequence, we are hopeful that the people we meet during our California tour will continue to support our elephant work.

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce

After almost two weeks on the road with several events and fundraisers behind us, we depart from California and Los Angeles this afternoon. We're busy packing so we don't have time for more than a very short summary of our trip.

ElephantVoices  visiting PAWS. (©ElephantVoices)The tour started with a cooking party and two other events in San Francisco, continued with a joint event at PAWS in San Andreas. You can see a video from this event here, including footage of Joyce's talk and of the responses of Ruby, Maggie, Mara and Lulu to some elephant sounds that we played to them. Their response was so strong that some people were worried that the sounds were upsetting to the girls. While it may be rare for captive elephants to react so strongly to a stimulus, the responses were very typical of wild elephants and we were able to observe a range of responses from high social excitement to fierce defence. Their response showed just what a strong leader Ruby has becomes and how tight the bonds are between the four elephants. PAWS can be extremely proud of the work they have done to facilitate the development of this family unit.

Georja Umano, Petter and JoyceWe finally had an event and fundraiser in the home of a good friend in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, on Sunday 16th November. The last three days of our visit ended up being much more hectic than planned, mainly because of meetings and press briefings related to our involvement in discussions regarding the future of elephants, including Billy, at LA Zoo.

On Tuesday Joyce participated in a press conference arranged by councilman Tony Cardenas of Los Angeles County Council. NBC Los Angeles, CBS Los Angeles and dailybreeze.com, laist and Fox LA are among the media that have covered the case. The vote was planned for Wednesday, but after 5 intense hours on the floor it has been delayed until the first week of December. (Article in LA Times here)

Petter,  Joyce and Councilman Tony Cardenas visiting LA Zoo.

We strongly hope the LA County Council will decide to close the exhibit and send Billy to a sanctuary. An urban zoo cannot offer the space necessary for a such a large, active, social, and intelligent animal as the elephant. We're extremely grateful for all the support and help we have received during our trip - it's been exhausting but has also given us lots of new energy. We have made new friends, and hopefully created more compassion for elephants among people that we have met on our way. We look forward to keeping in touch with all of you caring for elephants. Thanks!

Petter and Joyce

A new book is on the market: An Elephant In The Room: The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity. You can buy the book from Amazon.com here.

The opening chapter in the book, Mind and Movement: Meeting the interests of elephants, is written by ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole and Petter Granli. You can download the chapter from our Document Download Center: icon Poole, J & Granli, P. 2008. Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants. (2.19 MB)

The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity
Cover photos by ElephantVoices' Petter Granli.

From the back cover:
"There once were about 160 species of elephants, reaching back across 60 million years. Today, only three remain, and their survival is not certain. An Elephant In The Room: The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity, authored by experts from around the world and astride many disciplines, brings a new voice to assist their future. It examines the many and perplexing difficulties of elephants in captivity, looking for the best questions and trying to provide good answers.

The book presents the biological, ecological, and social dimensions of elephant behavior in the wild as the basis for any sound understanding of what elephants want and need. It discusses the effects of trauma and stress upon elephants, with a close look at current captive management systems and beliefs. It also offers a scientific assessment of captive elephant welfare, and practical methods to improve fundamental aspects of the lives of elephants in captivity. Presentations of new and impressive initiatives in the form of orphanages and sanctuaries provide hope for the future, as do new visions that would transform the current management regimes in zoos.

Humans have over millennia caused elephants enormous anguish, and even their imminent demise. Are we also capable of saving them? Is captivity a requirement for this, and if so, what should it be like? What are the special needs of elephants? What can be done to improve their quality of life? The number of zoos giving up their elephants has been growing in recent times. More are questioning whether zoos can provide for the extraordinary demands of these extraordinary beings.

To help address this, the book concludes with a set of Best Practices: a synthesis of science and ethics to guide a healthier future for captive elephants. Anyone interested in animal welfare, and especially the welfare of elephants in captivity, will find this book essential and enlightening reading."

An Elephant in the Room: The Science and Well-being of Elephants in Captivity is available on Amazon.com.

Thursday started with the BIG shopping - going off to the bush for weeks one has to stock up quite a bit. There are no shopping malls anywhere near Amboseli; a weekly supply of vegetables from Loitokitok (one rough hour drive away) and goods brought down with others coming to Amboseli is what we have to rely on. The drive from Nairobi to the border town of Namanga takes a couple of hours.

Some amazing road construction going on over quite a long stretch from Kajiado indicates that the main road to Tanzania will soon again see better days. Having been built properly in the first place this particular stretch of the road has been good for a long, long time, but it is finally falling apart. The ongoing re-construction done by Chinese road builder is, therefore, urgently needed. I had heard that the road from Namanga to Amboseli National Park's Meshanani Gate was terrible, but since it had obviously been graded quite recently Blake (Murray) and I experienced an unusually smooth ride. Having just done (more) major repairs on our field vehicle I was relieved to find the road in such good shape. We brought fresh newspapers (with Obama all over, of course) to Soila and the gang in ATE's field office, and continued on to the camp. A hot shower rinsed off sweat and dust from a hot journey. It was great to be back again, even though it is very sad to see how extremely dry Amboseli is.

Amboseli  Elephants dusting. (©ElephantVoices)The photo to the left is from our stay in January 2008, but we're going to see even more dust, dust devils and dusting elephants in the coming few months before we (hopefully) get rain.(©ElephantVoices)

 

Through a "dongle" connected to the computer I can, for the first time, be online from our (Joyce's and my) tent - but the question remains if this is really what I want considering the huge number of incoming mails...which reached close to 60 yesterday. Anyway - it gives me the option of staying in touch with my family and ElephantVoices contacts - which is good.

It was blowing hard Thursday night, and it was cold sitting by my desk. To stay warm I tried getting into bed with the laptop ... 2,5 meters away ....but that was enough for it to switch to a Tanzanian cellphone-provider. I was forced back to my desk, to avoid roaming. After I dealt with some urgent emails I went back to my current book, "The Crunch" (guess what it is about), fell asleep, and woke up in the middle of the night with a couple of grumpy old buffaloes in the swamp just in front of the tent and several elephants noisily feeding on the palms surrounding the tent. A little bit further away lions were roaring - a couple of days ago they chased a baby warthog through the camp and into the bushes. It has not been seen since.

Cheers, Petter

Amboseli carries all signs of being dry - in the afternoons dust often sweeps over us as grey or brownish fog. There is not much green gras to see, not much to feed on. Several days we have seen rain in the near by slopes of Kilimanjaro, and Loitokitok 1 hour away experienced this week much more rain than what's normal for this time of the year. Unfortunately most things previously planted have already died - the rain came too late.

The elephants are less active and talkative in a period like this, which is not great in terms of what we're trying to achieve within our communication study. They are hot and have less energy, but thanks to the Amboseli swamps they are doing relatively fine everything considered. Unstable weather often leads to heavy winds, which our sensitive microphone is not very pleased with. Blake and I are in any case happy to collaborate with the very competent research assistants in the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, both Norah Njiraini and Katito Sayialel have been "in action".

Blake Murray and Norah Njiraini in the Amboseli Elephant Research camp. (©ElephantVoices)
Blake Murray and Norah Njiraini in the Amboseli Elephant Research camp. (©ElephantVoices)

There are many babies in Amboseli these days - which indicates that 2006 and  2007 where years with enough rain and food. But times are harder now -  even though dusting feels good for elephants even in the best of    times. (©ElephantVoices)
There are many babies in Amboseli these days - which indicates that 2006 and 2007 where years with enough rain and food. But times are harder now - even though dusting feels good for elephants even in the best of times. (©ElephantVoices)

At night we very often hear lions - several are staying near by and sometimes walk so we can see them from the camp during day time. And in and around the camp numerous animals are having a peaceful time feeding on what's left, they continue to know that we are friends. Outside my tent opening a buffalo is looking at me 8-10 meters away, when I walk over to the dining tent a couple of zebras hardly move out of the path. Last Wednesday ended up very different and more dramatic than expected - since we had to follow AERP's Katito to find an elephant baby that was reported having fallen into a well. I will tell you some more, and share a couple of photos, in a couple of days. Right now other tasks need my attention. Have a great Sunday!

Male lion resting near by entrance to camp - currently getting all the food that he wants thanks to others being hungry and weak. (©ElephantVoices)
Male lion resting near by entrance to camp - currently getting all the food that he wants thanks to others being hungry and weak. (©ElephantVoices)

Cheers, Petter
Wednesday, 04 February 2009 10:06
After a early morning recording session last week Blake and I were told by our ATE research assistant Katito Sayialel that an elephant baby was reported stuck in a well west of Amboseli National Park. We decided to go together, and followed behind the cloud of dust from the Amboseli Elephant Research Project vehicle. Despite lots of "shadows" in terms of cellphone contact with the maasai that had called the AERP team it didn't take long before we found the right location a few meters from the Tanzanian border. Helpful maasai with cows and donkeys were all around, and told us that the baby had been in the well and struggling since last night. To get a 350 pound elephant baby out of a well is not a piece of cake. And one thing is to get it up, another is to avoid ending up in the middle of an upset elephant family when the baby cries for help. Katito decided that we should try to look for the baby's family, to find out how realistic it would be to get the baby back to them after a rescue. She also got in contact with Kenya Wildlife Service, to get their advice and assistance. Unfortunately they were not able to come, so we had to move forward ourselves.

Baby in well

The well was not deeper than 1,2 meter, but deep enough to make it impossible for the less than one year old baby to get out.

Blake recording

Since Blake's job for ElephantVoices during a 10 week field stay is to record rare calls, we had to try to get the low and very sad-sounding complaints from the baby on our Nagra digital recorder.

After having tried for quite some time to locate the family, and fearing that the baby could get serious injuries by the numerous attempts to get up, we had to take a decision what to do. Katito had already been in contact with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (their Orphans Project) in Nairobi, and they were ready to come and pick up the baby by plane. We decided to lift the baby carefully up with ropes around the belly together with our maasai friends. Next step was to get him into the back of our rustic Landcruiser - the first elephant passenger ever... Luckily we had a foam-pad (normally used as camera support) to provide as head-rest.

Baby in toyota

The baby was for natural reasons exhausted when finally out of the well, and quickly fell asleep when safe and sound in our field vehicle. In the photo we're at the Amboseli airstrip waiting for Sheldricks people.

The baby was well fed and looked strong and not too uneasy when arriving at the air strip, and an hour afterwards she was on the way to the orphanage in Nairobi with the very experienced Sheldrick staff that came to pick her up. I'm of course not happy at all that a baby elephant got separated from her family - but I do think what happened was the best solution considering the circumstances. That Blake and I had a very different day from what we expected is part of our story. We're crossing our fingers for the baby from the well.

Cheers, Petter

We would like you to be aware that ElephantVoices.org will be offline for a few weeks, while we continue to rebuild and expand the site. The new version will improve the site’s look and functionality, and allow you online access to more of our data. We plan to launch the new ElephantVoices.org site in late April. You will be able to manage your news subscription through the new version - and hope you will continue to follow and support our work. Welcome back!

Trumpets, Petter

The Performing Animal Welfare Society's (PAWS) 25th Anniversary Gala and Conference takes place at ARK2000 in San Andreas, California, from 24 to 26 April. Joyce is one of the keynote speakers, and will participate throughout the conference.  Join leading wildlife and captive wildlife experts for an interactive full 3-Day Conference!

Part of what we do is to offer advice, opinion and scientific documentation to people who are working on the frontline trying to help elephants in need. Very often these individuals are working in situations where publicity would harm, rather than help, their cause - and, therefore, it is often impossible for us to share our progress with you. Sometimes these cases drag on for months, even years.

We are involved in several of these situations at the moment - among these is one in Zimbabwe and another in South Africa. Some of the elephants in question have been severely abused and we are doing everything we can to assist those working on the ground for their better welfare and/or their release.

We will post information as soon as we can.

 


In todays newsletter, sent out to ElephantVoices friends and contacts around the world, we gave an introduction to the second generation ElephantVoices.org as well as touching on some of the issues that have occupied us over the last few months. Supported by programmers at Verviant.com in Nairobi, we have built a new cyber home. Our main purpose has been to develop an efficient, flexible and creative platform for the online sharing of information about elephants - their behavior, communication and interests.

We apologise for not being able to launch the news section and the Video Database at this stage. And you may find that some things don't function as they should - please let us know! Our overall goal is to continue to expand and improve the site in the years to come.

We invite you to take a tour on ElephantVoices!

For those of you who are interested in the lives of male elephants and their behavior in and out of the sexual and aggressive phenomenon of musth, we now have available for download a scanned PDF version of Joyce Poole's Cambridge University PhD thesis. Written in 1982, the thesis is entitled, Musth and male-male competition in the African elephant. Although the look is somewhat dated, the contents are comprehensive and represent the first work on musth in African elephants. While, much of the material has since been published in scientific journals (e.g. Poole and Moss, 1981; Moss and Poole, 1983; Poole and Moss, 1989; Poole et al., 1984; Poole, 1987; Poole, 1989a; Poole 1989b and Poole, 1999) some of its contents have not been published elsewhere.

The entire thesis: Joyce Poole, 1982. Musth and male-male competition in the African elephant.pdf (34.12 MB). If you are not sure whether you want it, you can make a judgement by reading the abstract here.

Bullhook photograph Bob Poole in ThailandOn 22 July 2009 PETA released new undercover footage of elephants being beaten by employees of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Joyce has made a formal comment on this footage which can be read here: Poole, J. 2009. Statement regarding PETA recent footage Ringling Brothers Circus (93.52 kB)

The footage is completely consistent with the evidence that Joyce reviewed as an expert witness in the legal case against against this circus. The judgement is to be made in the upcoming days. The casual and repetitive manner in which the handlers strike the elephants in this recent footage shows gratuitous violence and demonstrates that such treatment is routine. This cruel and sickening treatment of elephants has no place in the 21st Century.

We have been following with concern the debate regarding Lucy, the lone female Asian elephant, housed at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, City of Edmonton in Central Canada. Lucy was captured in Sri Lanka in 1976; her records list her original name as Skanik and her birth year as 1975. By mid 1977, at an age when she should have been in the jungles of Sri Lanka, suckling from her mother, Lucy was living behind bars at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. There, in the icy cold of central Canada, she spent the next 12 years, alone, rather than living with her family, being cared for and nurtured by mother and allomothers and learning through social interactions and experiences.

In 1989, when Lucy was 14, an African elephant calf, Samantha, torn from her own family through a culling operation in Zimbabwe, was brought to the zoo. Other than a couple of occasions when Lucy was sent on (failed) breeding loans, Samantha was Lucy's only elephant companion. In 2007 Samantha was moved to North Carolina on an extended breeding loan, leaving Lucy on her own once more. Highly social, complex and intelligent, no elephant should have to live alone.

Lucy's home at the zoo is an outdoor yard of less than half an acre and a tiny indoor enclosure with a concrete floor. Due to the icy temperatures and inclement weather, Lucy is estimated to spend up to three quarters of her time indoors - on the concrete floor. At age 34 Lucy is still a young elephant, yet her health problems are myriad and are directly caused by the cold, sedentary life she has been forced to live.

Our opinion is that the Edmonton Valley Zoo must, with all urgency, allow Lucy to live out the remainder of her life in a warmer climate in a setting where she is free to roam outdoors and to interact with members of her own species. After 32 years of captive misery, Lucy deserves to be given what is in her best interests. We urge the Edmonton Valley Zoo to put her needs first, and send Lucy to California, to PAWS, where she has been offered such a home.

The text above is included in a letter to the Mayor and City Councillors of Edmonton. (Poole, J. 2009. Letter Mayor Stephan Mandel regarding Lucy in Edmonton Valley Zoo. (82.87 kB)

Hi friends,

We are trying to take our summer holiday, but between lousy weather and elephants in crisis we keep being dragged back into the office!

We are now able to release Joyce's 47-page report (115-pages with Figures and Appendices) that she wrote over the course of several years in preparation for the legal case brought against Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus for their ill-treatment of elephants. You will notice that some sections of the report have been removed since they are still under court order. In order to access this report through our Document Download Center (section Statements & Testimonies) you need to register as a user on ElephantVoices.org - but that is easy to do.

The report is full of information about elephant basic biology as well as (of course) Joyce's opinions formed from reading the depositions of Ringling employees and other witnesses, the hours of video that she reviewed as well as other evidence that was gathered.

The case was heard in February of this year and, for those of you who are following this case closely, you can access Joyce's 6-hour 188 page court testimony in the same section.

Just as the case against Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is about to be decided, PETA was able to release new footage showing how the elephants are treated. For those of you who missed this video you can view it here - and Joyce's statement related to this recent footage here.

Ringling elephant foot Ringling elephant foot

From Joyce's expert report, Figure 7. The unhealthy soles of the feet of Ringling Brothers’ elephants are either completely smooth (left) or deeply fissured (right). The healthy soles of wild elephants are evenly worn from regular use on rough surfaces, displaying a thick (2.5 cm) of sensitive skin with a distinctive wrinkle pattern, which is individually recognizable in an elephant’s footprint.

We want to draw your attention to another situation in which cruelty toward elephants is in court - this time in South Africa.

Chained Boswell elephant.Back in March of this year Joyce was asked to view video, photographs and other evidence related to the treatment of elephants in the Natal Zoological Gardens and Brian Boswell's Circus, and to write an expert statement. Unfortunately we cannot provide the statement at this time.

In the public domain, though, is the photograph to the right - showing an Asian female elephant at the Natal Zoological Gardens chained to the cement floor in a dark, dank garage-like structure that is open to the elements on two sides. Due to her unnatural sedentary life on concrete, her toenails are overgrown and her feet are in poor condition.

The zoo and circus are both owned by Brian Boswell. The situation has now hit the press in South Africa and you can read more about it here.

The Elephant CharterIndividual elephants and populations of elephants, African and Asian, are suffering as a consequence of conflict with people over dwindling resources, poaching for ivory and meat, poor governance, capture for captivity and mistreatment in the name of human entertainment. With science as the foundation for our knowledge, and respect for the interests of elephants, each one of us can contribute toward making a difference to their well being and future survival.

We appeal to you to sign The Elephant Charter!

The purpose of The Elephant Charter is to provide a set of guiding Principles, based on elephant biology, to form a touchstone for anyone needing to address elephant interests. Buttressed by its Appendix, The Elephant Charter represents a consensus of the nature of elephants. It is intended to promote scientifically sound and ethical management and care of all elephants, providing guidance to law and policy makers, enforcement agencies and the courts, organizations, institutions and international bodies, as well as to managers of wild and captive elephants.

Visit and sign The Elephant Charter NOW!

The next CITES meeting will take place in March 2010 and may determine the future survival of elephants. The situation is now dire in many African elephant range states as the number of elephants slaughtered for their ivory soars, in some places escalating to levels only witnessed 20 to 30 years ago. This update from Science Daily is from August 2008 - and the situation is growing worse by the day. A recent article in Scientific American gives a detailed picture of the wholesale slaughter and can be read/downloaded if you are registered as a user on ElephantVoices. Everyone needs to make their voice heard!

Kenya, in concert with many countries, has for years taken a strong position against the ivory trade. With several failing states as neighbors, however, and no stranger to crime and corruption in high places herself, Kenya is suffering from an onslaught of poaching, and the grim stories are making headlines around the world.

Other countries, including neighboring Tanzania, are submitting proposals to CITES that could spell the end of elephant populations as we know them. The killing of elephants for their ivory is currently the cause of enormous losses in numbers as well as enormous suffering to individuals and their families, and many populations could go extinct during the next few years if something isn't done to reverse the trend. You can read more about the many dramatic consequences of poaching here.

You can help to stop the killing of elephants by ensuring that your country votes against any further sales of ivory and against any downlisting of populations at the next CITES meeting, and by supporting all good forces that work to stop the trade in ivory and its demand. The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in CITES will be held in Doha from 13 to 25 March 2010.

ElephantVoices standpoint is that all elephants should be on Appendix I of CITES and the commercial trade in ivory should be banned.

ElephantVoices' Joyce and Petter will be at several events in California during October 2009. You will find more details about each event and how to attend below. We wish you warmly welcome!

If you like to bid on items auctioned out to the benefit of ElephantVoices during October 2009 look at the bottom of this page and check out our Celebrity Endorsements page.

Wildlife Conservation Network Expo Day 3 October

ElephantVoices was represented by ElephantVoices board member, Coco Hall, at the Wildlife Conservation Network's Expo Day. The event took place Saturday, October 3rd, 10am - 6pm, at Mission Bay Conference Center, 1675 Owens St, San Francisco. You can also read about the event in this flyer.

Fundraiser for ElephantVoices in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, 18 October

Patty Shenker and Doug Stoll will host a reception at their home, on Sunday 18th October, 3 to 6 pm. You will find an invite with all necessary information on how to attend here.

Lecture: The Living Desert, near Palm Springs, 19 October

Cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Lecture: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, Santa Barbara, 21 October

The lecture at Santa Barbara Maritime Museum starts at 7:00 pm.

Fundraiser for ElephantVoices in Sausalito, 25 October

Coco Hall will host an event at her home in Sausalito on 25 October, 5 to 7 pm. You will find an invitation with all necessary information here.

Lecture/event Oakland Zoo, 28 October

Oakland Zoo will host a Joyce Poole lecture as part of their Conservation Speaker Series on 28 October, at 6.30 pm. Check event flyer here.

Auction before and during LA fundraiser 18 October - get Dionysus sculpture and support!

Our long-term, generous supporter Doug Aja has again donated a beautiful bronze sculpture, this time a bust of famous Dionysus. Dionysus starred in Echo of the Elephants and graces a center spread in the May 1991 issue of National Geographic. The artwork will be auctioned during our fundraiser in LA 18 October - but if you want to give a bid before then please use our contact form! The normal price is $2,200; the minimum bid is half of this. Dionysus is one of many Amboseli elephants that has a special place in our hearts. Joyce spent a lot of time with him during her musth studies in the 1980s and we both followed his struggles during his final days in 2003. You can read our field notes from that time here. Bid for Dionysus, keep his memory alive and support out work!

Doug is an artist living in Vermont, USA, and has African wildlife and the African elephant in particular as his true passion. Part of the proceeds from the sale of his wildlife art is donated to ElephantVoices. Doug is a Member of the Artists for Conservation (AFC).

Dionysus, made famous in the BBC film, Echo of the Elephants, was one of Joyce's focal Amboseli males.
Click on photo to see Dionysus in 2003.

More and more people are on social networks - and the popularity of Facebook continue to increase. ElephantVoices is following the trend, with the obvious goal of improving our educational interface towards a global audience. With the current disastrous boom in the trade in ivory and poaching anybody working for the future and interest of elephants must optimize all efforts trying to reduce supply and demand for ivory.

ElephantVoices on facebookElephantVoices' facebook "window" will be were we will post daily updates, viewpoints and comments, while hoping for many from you as well. We will at the same time continue to improve and expand ElephantVoices.org when it comes to comprehensive information about elephant communication and elephants interests, and our multimedia databases. We will also give news updates through the site, when appropriate. After a few days close to 850 people has registered as fans on our Facebook Page.

ElephantVoices 4U is launched to provide a network for youth who want to discuss and work together to secure a kinder future for elephants. We are very grateful for anyone recruiting young people to join! ElephantVoices have 449 fans after less than a week.

ElephantVoices is also on Twitter, for people that want to follow our work and updates through this communication channel.

 

Today we received a very welcome message from Marc Bekoff and we want to share it with those of you who are also working on the front line helping animals. The message he sent to us is an excerpt from an an article in Psychology Today. He writes:

"hello you all - from time to time people ask me about activism, burnout, and other matters so i've penned some short one-liners down - agree or disagree (delete if you want to!) i know you all agree that we *must* keep on working for animals and earth and peace and these are some things that keep me going, in no particular order ...

  • think positively - don't let the bastards get you down - i'm not a blind optimist but along with all the 'bad' things there are 'good' things happening and that's what kindles and rekindles me, at least ... negativity is a time and and energy suck and all of you good people need to keep doing what you are *for as long as you can *and this means, at least for me, rekindling .... from time to time taking deep breaths and enjoying whatever it is i enjoy ...
  • we are *not* the radicals
  • we don't have to apologize for feeling - we can be unapologetic activists working for a better world ...
  • be proactive - we need to look at what's happening and prevent further abuse and not always be 'putting out the fires' -- be nice to those with whom you disagree and move on ... sometimes it's just better to let something go and pick your 'battles' carefully and don't waste time
  • teach the children well
  • take care of yourself so you can do what you do for as long as possible
  • Marc  Bekoff:  THE ANIMAL MANIFESTO don't waste time 'fighting' people who won't change and don't let them deflect attention from the important work that needs to be done - that is, don't get in 'pissing matches' with people who want you to waste precious time and energy fighting them, time and energy that must go into working for animals, earth, and peace
  • we are the the future
  • keep thinking positively and proactively ..........

    ..... blessings to you all and thanks for all you do .............

    all best wishes and happy holidays to you all ... marc

Keep an eye out for Marc's upcoming book;
The Animal Manifesto,
Six Reasons for Expanding our Compassion Footprint.

We are obviously happy to see that The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture proposes to ban elephants from Norwegian circuses. We have been involved in this discussion since we moved to Norway in late 2004, partly by feeding the relevant authorities, including members of Parliament, with sound science.

We have for some time felt convinced that the government body dealing with this issue (The Norwegian Food Safety Authority!) would end up accepting that elephants should no longer be in Norwegian circuses, but we also knew that they might give the circuses some years to adjust to this legislation.

We are not happy with the 5 year transition period (until 1. January 2015), even though we are only talking about 2 to 4 elephants. The proposed ban means that the department has accepted that elephants in circuses suffer - it makes no sense to let this continue for another 5 years. The hearing deadline is 18. January 2010, and we will argue for a shortening of the "transition period".

The proposed ban is an important step forward for a progressive nation - and a victory for elephants. Hopefully we will soon be able to say goodbye to the last elephant in Norway... You can read more about ElephantVoices views on elephants in circuses here.

"They Don't Want To Be In Show Business"

This music video works well with the news from Norway - and related to circus elephants around the world: "They Don't Want To Be In Show Business". The song is about the plight of circus elephants & a call to end this exploitation!

Original song by Bill Dyer, sung by JoAnne Worley, edited by Sandra Mohr & produced by our friend and animal advocate Patty Shenker.

We wish you all Happy Holidays - and hope for a kinder 2010 for all living creatures! We are grateful if you speak out for elephants whenever you can - and promise to work hard to let http://elephantvoices.org and our Pages on Facebook (http://facebook.com/elephantvoices & http://facebook.com/elephantvoices4U) continue to be reliable sources of information and discussions about elephants and their interests.

On 1 January 2010 a new Animal Welfare Act was put in force in Norway - based on an expressed political will in the Norwegian Parliament to be in the forefront when it comes to animal welfare. When adopted nearly unanimously by Parliament in May last year it was pinpointed that the way we treat our animals reflects the ethical standard of the society. The Act states that animals have an intrinsic value which is irrespective of the usable value they may have for man, and that animals shall be treated well and be protected from unnecessary distress.

The intention of the Act is to promote both good animal welfare and respect for animals. Anyone who has reason to believe that an animal is exposed to mistreatment or serious neglect regarding the environment, supervision and care, is obliged by law to report it to relevant authority. One shall also ensure that animals needing help receives it, if at all possible. Parents may not allow children less than 16 years of age to have independent responsibility for animals. An explicit ban on sexual relations with animals is included in the Act. The killing of animals as an independent form of entertainment or competition is banned, even if the animal is not necessarily at risk from suffering.

Elephant  Beibie visiting Sandefjord in March 2008. (C) ElephantVoicesWe believe Norway's progressive new Animal Welfare Act will reduce animal suffering, and we congratulate all those involved in this legislation!

17 December 2009 we reported that Norway most likely will ban elephants from circuses. We see this and the new Norwegian Animal Welfare Act as big steps forward for a nation high on all lists when it comes to welfare for humans - it soon may deserve it also when it comes to welfare for animals.

Cheers, Petter

Copyright: WildAidIn this day and age the best way to do this is through the web, posting on Facebook and YouTube, sharing and cross-posting.The ivory trade is unsustainable. Elephants are in jeopardy because people covet their tusks. In a collaborative effort ElephantVoices is working to get the facts and figures out to decision-makers, and to spread the word in hopes of reaching potential buyers of ivory.

Over 80 celebrities have donated their time to public service announcements (PSAs) produced by our colleagues at WildAid. This organization is among the few with a substantial audience in a Facebook- and Google-free China - the country that is currently the biggest threat to elephants. Take a look at one of their PSAs about elephant, ivory and poaching starring famous Chinese basketball player, Yao Ming.

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We wrote to AVAAZ months ago to encourage them to run a campaign against the ivory trade. Many others have obviously done the same, and we were yesterday thrilled to see their online campaign. AVAAZ has an enormous network of members and has the capacity to be heard. In just a day or so they have collected over 100,000 signatures. Let CITES members hear what we think about Tanzania's and Zambia's proposal for further sale of ivory!

Please sign on and send the message on to your friends.

Save the Elephants: STOP BLOODY IVORY!

Below you will find links and video related to the unfolding story of Kibo, a baby elephant who got stuck in a well and was rescued to be taken to Sheldrick's orphanage in Nairobi. Meeting a desperate baby trapped, and now seeing him thriving as "Kibo" at Daphne Sheldrick's orphanage, is heart warming. Kibo will one day be released back to the wild and, hopefully, live to a ripe old age in an environment free from the scourge of the ivory trade. In the meantime, he is an emissary, changing the hearts and minds of young school children in Kenya and, via the internet, people all over the world.

Trumpets, Petter

Amboseli elephant baby stuck in well - and then to orphanage

The elephant in the well - Kibo and his new life (With video below)

The rescue of a baby elephant

A young baby elephant fell late at night 28 January 2009 into a man made well west of Amboseli National Park, Kenya, near Sinya Mines.

Some local maasai found him and asked the Amboseli Elephant Research Project for help to rescue him. Together we tried to find his family, but they were not to be seen.

We had to get him up - he was injured, sunburned and exhausted.

Visiting Kibo one year after

Meeting a desperate elephant baby trapped in a well, and now seeing him thriving and playful as "Kibo" at Daphne Sheldrick's orphanage, is heart warming.

Kibo will one day be released back to the wild and, hopefully, live to a ripe old age in an environment free from the scourge of the ivory trade.

In the meantime, he is an emissary, changing the hearts and minds of young school children in Kenya and, via the internet, people all over the world.

Science Opinion Piece 12. March 2010: Elephants, Ivory, and TradeTogether with 25 other scientists we have authored an opinion piece on the ivory trade for Science, which you can access on this page. You'll also find a press release from Drs. Sam Wasser, Andy Dobson, Katarzyna Nowak, Joyce Poole, and Petter Granli.

The piece argues that CITES' member states should reject the proposals from Tanzania and Zambia requesting further sale of ivory. CITES (CoP15) starts today, Saturday 13 March.

Science Opinion Piece, Volume 327, 12. March 2010: icon Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (395.07 kB)

"Scientists Oppose One-off Ivory Sales and Urge International Trade Decisions to Put Science above Politics": icon Press release Science Opinion Piece: Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (63.42 kB)

You will find quite a few links to media coverage related to the opinion piece in Science here.

CITES -  CoP15 logoWe have uploaded a page with a few links to sources of information and updates from the ongoing CITES - CoP15 - in Doha, Qatar, 13 to 25 March. We will from Wednesday give you some updates ourselves - when time and connection permits.

Our objectives for being here at CITES do not allow much time for giving comprehensive updates, nor for relaxation, for that matter. This is partly why we have given some links to other sources for CoP15 updates and related information here, and why we continue to update this page with links to media coverage about ivory trade and poaching. Take the facts and reflections in this news piece as our "one and only" proper feedback about our perspective of CITES and the CoP15 "in action". I am well aware that many of you might find the below rather technical, but in trying to reach people with different level of insight this is how it has ended up...

Friday (yesterday) was a day off in terms of the official program, and gave us a chance to catch up with important e-mails and preparations for the days and activities to come. In the evening we participated in a strategy meeting and dinner with the Afrian Elephant Coalition (AEC). A few hours ago we went to the Official Delegates' Dinner hosted by Qatar's Ministry of Environment, but raced back to our hotel for some more time on the computer after a quick meal and a couple of important conversations.

Improved CITES work processes strongly needed

It's a fact that enormous effort and money go into lobbying CITES delegates. This mean that politics, horse-trading and "friendly favors" among nations sometimes overtake CITES mandate of "ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival." Admittedly, I don't have a good gut feeling based on how CoP15 voted against increased protection for the polar bear and the blue fin tuna.

CITES member states rely heavily on the Panel of Experts (PoE), selected by the Secretariat. Their reports on Tanzania's and Zambia's proposals for sale and downlisting (available here) were distributed, without peer review, only a few days before CoP15. They contain conclusions that we disagree with and some core facts that are wrong. We honor the hard work of the Panel, but we feel that elephants deserve a more open and less rushed process. Handing out such crucial documents a couple of days before the meeting takes place is simply unacceptable.

We have contested the Secretariat's conclusion that Zambia's and Tanzania's populations do not meet the biological criteria to remain on Appendix I in Statement from Save The Elephants & ElephantVoices regarding Tanzania's and Zambia's proposal distributed to CoP15 delegates on 18 March. The opinion piece in Science 12 March, Elephants, Ivory, and Trade, highlights the need for engagement of the wider scientific community in CITES decisions regarding the future of elephants.

We have spent most of today working hard to prepare a presentation that Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Sam Wasser and Joyce will give at CoP15 tomorrow, Sunday. It pinpoint some hard facts and figures about the ivory trade and Tanzania's and Zambia's evident role in it while also describing the long-term consequences of poaching on elephant populations. The presentation will, furthermore, document what we view as a clear relationship between CITES elephant petitions, one-off sales and illegal trade and poaching. We argue that it would be irresponsible to break the spirit of the nine year moratiorium or "resting period" on trade that was decided at CoP14.

The "bigger picture" - and welfare for the individual elephant

Qatar is one of the sunniest places on earth, but we have hardly been outside. From our hotel windows we can see huge buildings shooting up all around - what probably is the richest country in the world, considering their oil and gas reserves, is a quickly growing financial powerhouse. It admittedly feels kind of strange to discuss conservation and wildlife surrounded by overwhelming signs of trade, luxury and (over)consumption.

While CITES mainly is about the "bigger picture" and trends, we shouldn't forget the welfare of individuals. During the last couple of days we have been through slides showing numerous ivory seizures, with three huge ones from 2009 representing 17,000 dead elephants. We have seen photos from markets or shops in Nigeria, Congo, Angola, Mozambique and Egypt exhibiting ivory equal to hundreds of elephants. During the presentation tomorrow gruesome photos of elephants whose genitals have been cut off will be shown for the first time. We cannot even imagine the trauma for families whose members are amongst the 30,000+ elephants that are estimated to be killed each year.

The fight against the ivory trade is in any case not over

It is late Saturday evening - during Monday we most likely will know if CITES will follow the Precautionary Principle and give elephants a much needed benefit of the doubt. Even with a positive decision the struggle is far from over, better law enforcement is another vital factor in this trade. The world society and African governments will have to put a lot of effort into closing down ivory suppliers and outlets, while authorities in China, Japan and Thailand must control and close down smuggling routes and illegal carving facilities. To change attitudes among willing buyers in the market place, educating people that ivory means dead elephants, is just one of many challenges we face.

We hope to bring you good news on Monday - but don't want to raise any expectations what so ever.

Petter, in Doha

Section of GB family in Amboseli wait for their one-tusked matriarch, Grace, to catch up. (©ElephantVoices)

We are extremely happy to report that elephants did well at CITES' CoP15 in Doha, Qatar. But, we are well aware that while the battle was won, the war against the ivory trade and for elephant conservation in general is an on-going one. Poverty, greed, poor governance, habitat loss and lack of law enforcement are among the many factors threatening the future of elephants and interacting with the ivory trade with devastating effect.

Our inspiration to fight on comes from the elephants themselves. We cannot win, though, if elephant range states are not willing to put a higher value on live rather than dead elephants. CITES is a convention set up to prevent the over exploitation of species by trade (though sometimes the opposite seems true); it is not meant to deal with issues of poverty, population growth or land use planning. Some countries always play the poverty card, though. While we do not buy the argument put forward over and again from southern Africa that elephants "have to pay to stay", we do recognize that we will lose elephants if local governments are not able to balance out the needs of people with those of elephants and wildlife in general.

Major achievement for elephants

As usual, elephants dominated the CITES Conference and at certain times the atmosphere was extremely tense. Requests from Tanzania and Zambia to down list their elephants populations from Appendix I to II and to begin to trade in ivory were both rejected. Tanzania and Zambia amended their proposals when they realized that they might lose the vote, but despite well orchestrated interventions by supporting parties they did not succeed in achieving the two thirds majority required. We firmly believe that down listing and "one-off" sales would have further stimulated the market for ivory, and led to more killing of elephants. They did succeed in getting another vote in the plenary session today, Thursday 25th, but the victory for elephants was upheld.

We feel that our participation was a major achievement for elephants and for ElephantVoices. While at CoP15 in Doha ElephantVoices and Save the Elephants prepared and distributed a statement to the delegates arguing that the biological criteria for down listing of Tanzania's and Zambia's elephant populations had not been met. We received an enormous response to a science-based presentation by Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Sam Wasser and Joyce which countered some of the claims by the CITES Secretariat. The day before the vote more than 350 CITES participants squeezed into the meeting room with tens more having to turn around at the door for lack of space. We heard from many delegates that the presentation was an eye opener, and it is probably fair to state that it had a significant impact on what transpired later. We believe that our presentation helped influenced the EU to vote against Tanzania and to abstain in the Zambian vote which meant that they did not get the 2/3 majority required.

A magnificent team for elephants

KWS' Patrick Omondi during CoP15 intervention Our main collaborator during CoP15 was the African Elephant Coalition (AEC, with 23 African elephants range states as members), and the informal group Kenya Elephant Forum (KEF) which includes key stakeholders in Kenya (Save the Elephants, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service, Youth for Conservation, ElephantVoices and others) co-ordinated by Pat Awori. During our recent trips to Kenya we were able to participate in two meetings of the KEF and were in daily email contact with them leading up to the meeting. Our African friends did a great job, and KWS assistant director Patrick Omondi presented AEC perspectives in an excellent manner. We are proud being part of this magnificent team!

Over 4,000 fans are currently following us on Facebook, and during the heated discussions and thrilling vote Monday 12th we updated our Facebook Page several times - "live from the conference hall in Doha". We got lots of responses, and many interesting comments that will be reflected in our educational outreach and work ahead. Some of you might have followed the updated list of links about the ivory trade and poaching, list to CITES information and update sources and used our searchable Document Download Center to find documents relevant to the ivory trade and CITES.

After months of focus on the ivory trade we will have to re-direct some of our energy on several important welfare issues ahead. In ALL elephant work, though, whether we are talking about wild or captive elephants, the welfare perspective is one that we never forget.

We thank all of you following and supporting us in this endeavor - and look forward to continued contact!

Petter Granli & Joyce Poole One of our objectives is education - to share our knowledge about the behavior, abilities and interests of elephants and their conservation in the wild with you the public. We accomplish this in a number of ways - this website and ElephantVoices on Facebook being just two. Articles, documentary films and lectures are other important avenues, although with the travel involved the latter is, admittedly, not the most eco-friendly alternative.

With this in mind we have decided to try out the use of Skype to communicate directly with students in primary, middle and high school classes. The blurb below describes one such a meeting from March this year where, via Skype and a computer connected to a data projector, we chatted with enthusiastic kids and their teachers in Atlanta, Georgia.

We welcome teachers or students from any where in the world to mail us with their thoughts about how they think a discussion with ElephantVoices and Joyce could fit into their class work. We are pleased to discuss a range of issues including elephant biology, social behavior and communication, elephant conservation in the context of human development, elephants and the ivory trade, and captive elephant welfare, among other topics.

Our time and capacity is limited, but we would like to try doing an "Elephant in the Classroom" meeting once a month. Get in touch with us and we can take details from there!

A fun meeting with a school class in Atlanta, Georgia, 11 March 2010

"Five and six year old students at the Paideia School in Atlanta, Georgia have been studying elephants in depth with their teachers, Jonathan and Kristi. Students have been busy creating life-size elephants, making models of elephant habitats, and researching interesting animal facts that they will share in a podcast. As part of their research, they Skyped with Petter and Joyce to ask them their unanswered questions about elephants. Students had a chance to ask them the questions they had written in their journals earlier in the week. The class enjoyed learning that the female elephants never leave their families. They also found it interesting to hear about the many ways in which an elephant uses its trunk."

Amy Valk, Instructional Technology Specialist, The Paideia School

The issue of space is at the core of most elephant discussions we are involved in - both when it comes to wild or captive situations. Without proper space for mind and movement elephants cannot thrive. It is as simple and difficult as that. (See Poole, J & Granli, P. 2008. Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants. (.pdf, 2.19 Mb))

In many range states private conservancies, elephant corridors and metapopulation structures are among ingredients for elephants future survival. We highly recommend anyone interested to read the IFAW publication "Elephants: Facts & Fables" (.pdf, 2.71 Mb). The publication seeks to shed light on what we really know, and don’t, about elephants, their dynamics, and conservation management in southern Africa.

Written by the renowned Professor Rudi van Aarde, director of the Conservation Ecology Research Unit of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, the book features magnificent photography and is intended to better inform discussions of public policy and management as they pertain to elephants.

One year ago, Sunday 3 May 2009, Echo, the matriarch of the EB family, died in Amboseli. In her memory we compiled some images of and vocalizations by this extraordinary and world renown elephant. Echo was the capable leader of her family for at least 36 years. The EB family was our group of primary study for a number of them, resulting in thousands of recordings.

We miss Echo - we're convinced that many elephants do, too.

You'll find the compilation of images and sounds here, and the news piece we sent out 4 May 2009 here.

Echo of the Elephants

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On 12th May Joyce Poole was interviewed on Talking Animals.

She discusses elephant behavior and communication, and our responsibility for their well being.

She also touches on the fate of Boo (alias Queenie) and Lucky in the San Antonio Zoo.

You can listen to the interview via the below media player.

Joyce on Talking Animals {audio}Talking_Animals_Audio_Archive_Joyce_Poole.mp3{/audio}

In late January this year, Junia Machado, a Brazilian from Sao Paulo, wrote to us to ask for some help in assessing the situation for Teresita, an African elephant is living alone in the Sao Paulo Zoo. She also wanted to know how she could contribute towards the goals of ElephantVoices.

Since then we have started to collaborate with her on some welfare issues related to captive elephants in Brazil (there are 23 - 15 Asian and 8 African), which we will come back to in the near future.

A couple of days ago Junia sent us a link to an excellent article in a Sao Paulo newspaper - a journalist and grandfather's reflections after a zoo visit. You will find the original version of journalist Nelson Motta's article in Portugese here, and an English version translated through Google here. It is worth reading!

By banning all animals from circuses Bolivia has shown the way forward. There are other positive things happening in regard to animal welfare in other countries in Latin America, too. ElephantVoices intends to try to follow the situation in Brazil, inspired by the dedication of Junia Machado. Junia has volunteered to work with us to find out more about the situation for elephants in the country and to promote positive change.

Junia has recently spent quite a lot of time with the 26-year-old elephant, Teresita, who lives alone in the São Paulo Zoo. With our input Junia is collecting data to describe how this lonely female African elephant spend her time. This "activity budget" will give insight into how Teresita is coping in an appalling situation, and what the zoo is doing or not doing to alleviate her suffering. Junia is collecting information on Teresita's activities every minute on-the-minute which will basically summarize how Teresita spends her time. Our hope is that Junia's data, combined with solid science available on ElephantVoices.org, will provide the facts and arguments that are needed to convince legislators and others with power that radical change is required to improve Teresita's existence. We will be sharing Junia's findings with you and will follow up with the reaction of the zoo. The photographs below taken by Junia already tell a lot about her sad living conditions.

In April 2000, the attention of Brazil's lawmakers was brought to the issue of animals in circuses when a six-year-old boy was killed by a lion in the Vostok circus. At that time the lack of security was the main focus. Eight years later, national news reported a new case, this time referring to accusations of cruelty. In August 2008, the Brazilian Environment Agency (IBAMA) confiscated animals from "Le Cirque," accusing the circus of inappropriate space and inhumane treatment. A law banning animals from circuses was proposed as early as 2006, and three states, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco, and more than 20 cities in other states, have already implemented such bans. Since 2010 is an election year in Brazil it is quite difficult to know what will happen, but we sincerely hope we will see some progress after the general election in the beginning of October and Junia is in any case following up.

Junia's interest in elephants was triggered by a book, Marvelous and Mysteries of Animal World, published in 1966. Do read Junia's own words about her interest and love for elephants - and how she became so committed to helping Teresita. You will hear more from Junia and about elephants in Brazil during the months to come - and hopefully some good news about legislation and improved elephant welfare. There are currently 23 elephants in Brazilian zoos (519.25 kB) - we continue to look into how many circus elephants there are.

Teresita reaching through a hole in the cement wall to search for food. (©Junia Machado)



Teresita has several strange calluses on her head, most likely caused by having to press her head against the cement wall to stretch her trunk through the hole in the wall to try to attain out of reach food. (©Junia Machado)

From this location Teresita might be able to see some near by activity. (©Junia Machado)

Another grey and boring day for a sad Teresita; nothing
to do and no friends. (©Junia Machado)

Joyce Poole and Petter Granli of ElephantVoices' visited Barcelona from 9-11 June to assess the situation for elephants, Susi and Yoyo, in Barcelona Zoo. The visit was based on an initative by the organisations Libera and Faada, and with the input and inspiration of several others who are interested in the plight of these two elephants.

We had two constructive meetings with Barcelona Zoo Director, Miquel Trepat, and two of his colleagues, and in an open letter (171.79 kB) we have given the zoo our feedback. It is our opinion that Susi and Yoyo's interests cannot be met in an urban zoo and we argue that, ideally, they should be moved to an elephant sanctuary. Currently, there is no such place in Europe, yet Spain has an ideal climate for such a sanctuary and we are engaged in discussion with people who hope to make this a reality. In the mean time the elephants suffer, as most zoo elephants do, but it is fair to add that the Barcelona Zoo continues to work to improve their conditions.

Our letter goes into many of the issues relevant to elephants in zoos, while also pinpointing some of the special challenges related to Susi and Yoyo and the plans of Barcelona Zoo.

The educational value of "exhibiting" elephants who, due to their captive situation, do not behave remotely like elephants, is from our perspective, extremely limited. We would argue that giving children the impression that it is OK to keep animals in conditions far from what they need may, instead, create attitudes that may stimulate abuse rather than the opposite. While the Barcelona Zoo states that they are known for their education program, the information sign by the elephant enclosure speaks for itself.

Our visit and views were covered by the media as a result of a press conference and other interviews arranged by Libera! and FAADA during our stay. You will find some media links below, others will be included when the articles are published. At the bottom of the page you will find ElephantVoices video clips with Susi and Yoyo.

TVE a la CARTA (17.12 into the program)

L'elefanta Yoyo compleix un any separada de Susi al Zoo de Barcelona
(English version of above article, translated via Google translate)

La Yoyo i la Susi continuen separades
(English version of above article, translated via Google translate)


News coverage on www.btvnoticies.cat 10 June.


Susi has been in the Barcelona Zoo since 2002, while her current neighbour, Yoyo, arrived 6th June 2009.
We do not believe that an urban zoo is able to provide
what Susi and Yoyo need to be able to thrive. (©ElephantVoices)


From left to right: Jenny Berengueras (FAADA), Petter Granli (ElephantVoices), Vera Weber (Fondation Franz Weber), Joyce Poole (ElephantVoices), Laura Riera (FAADA), Alejandra García (Libera!) and Daniel Turner (Born Free) visiting Barcelona Zoo in June 2010.
Susi to the right. (©ElephantVoices)


Yoyo. (©ElephantVoices)

 


Information sign by
Barcelona Zoo elephant enclosure.

 

Susi and Yoyo 9 June 2010. Footage ElephantVoices.
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Science Opinion Piece 12. March 2010: Elephants, Ivory, and TradeOn the day before the CITES (CoP15) meeting opened in Doha in March, we published an opinion piece against the ivory trade together with 25 other scientists. The piece, published in the Policy Forum section of Science, was entitled, Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (395.07 kB).

In the 25 June 2010 issue of Science you can read a rebuttal by John Frederick Walker and Dan Stiles. In the same edition several of us - Samuel Wasser, Katarzyna Nowak, Joyce Poole, John Hart, Rene Beyers, Phyllis Lee, Keith Lindsay, Gardner Brown, Petter Granli and Andrew Dobson have written a response to their arguments. You can read and download both the rebuttal and our response here (507.73 kB).

Our initial piece argued that CITES' member states should reject the proposals from Tanzania and Zambia requesting down listing of their elephant populations and further sales of ivory. After a heated debate this is, indeed, what happened.

 

 

Many of you will have already heard the excellent news that the shipment of animals, including two elephant calves, from Zimbabwe to a North Korean zoo has been called off - thanks to concerted effort by many individuals and groups, both internationally and in Zimbabwe.

Our sincere thanks goes out to all of you - organisations and individuals – for adding your names to the weight of opposition to what would have been a disastrous arrangement for those animals!

The deal created an angry storm, and over 50 organizations from around the world signed our letter (180.02 kB) to the Director General Vitelas Chadenga of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. The letter was followed up by numerous media - some of the links are listed at the bottom of this page.

The Zimbabwean authorities have said that arrangement was genuinely intended to raise urgently needed funds for habitat conservation, in particular cutting fire-breaks in Hwange National Park, where most of the animals had been captured. Furthermore, they have stated that they do not intend to undertake another capture of this nature.

However, this Statement of Reassurance is still not confirmed in writing – it is something that, together with other organisations and individuals, we are trying to secure. We see it as vital that this objective is achieved, partly since it is known that several other countries have expressed their interest in obtaining wild animals from Zimbabwe.

In the meantime there was an urgent need to ensure that the majority of the captured animals were released back into the wild as soon as possible. This operation took place a week ago coordinated by the Tikki Hywood Trust. The giraffe and zebra are being taken to a private game farm within Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately, the two juvenile elephants cannot be released immediately. Instead, they are going to be integrated into a group of other rescued elephants, at Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust - with the intention of releasing the group to the wild when they are ready to survive independently. This may take several years.

Releasing/caring for these animals, and the two elephants in particular, obviously carries a significant cost. The total of US$27,000 is made up of:

  • Immediate release of most of the wild-caught animals $3,000
  • Two years care for the 2 young elephants $24,000 ($6,000 per annum per elephant)

Together with Born Free Foundation and Tikki Hywood Trust we are currently reaching out to people and organizations that might be able to help in covering these costs. If you are in the position to contribute PLEASE contact Shelley(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk, Andrina(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk or Stephen(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk.

Once we have the assurance that Zimbabwe is banning the practice of capturing and exporting wild animals, we will try to raise funds for the much needed maintenance of fire-breaks in Hwange National Park. Many thousands of wild animals could be affected by devastating fires in Hwange if these fire-breaks are not kept up - and due to financial constraints in Zimbabwe the wildlife authorities do not have the resources to cover these costs themselves.

We congratulate the Zimbabwean authorities for considering the lives of these animals and cancelling their export to North Korea. We urge them to permanently ban the practice of animal capture for captivity - doing so would win Zimbabwe significant goodwill around the world.

Media and people around the world are taking part in the heated discussion about a possible and extremely controversial new road through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The road would in reality cut off vital migration routes (see some migration maps on this site) within the Serengeti Mara ecosystem, and will as such be a disaster both from an environmental perspective and for the tourism revenue both Tanzania and Kenya are so dependent upon. It will also affect the situation for elephants, and obviously have a major impact on Kenyas Maasai Mara National Reserve.

It is hard to imagine that the Tanzanian government, despite recent statements, will continue to move forward on this with open eyes, especially when there is an attractive, alternative route for a new and much needed highway link between Lake Victoria and Arusha. While not ideal, this road does not pass through world famous and World Heritage Site Serengeti. It does not help the government that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (1,8mb) prepared for Tanzania National Roads Agency seem to be a very superficial document.

If the Tanzanian government continue to move forward with this road of mass destruction, we believe they strongly will regret it. We know that a huge number of institutions, organizations and individuals are trying to help the authorities to see and understand what is at stake - and we keep hoping that facts and respect for one of Tanzanias most important assetts will prevail. ElephantVoices obviously support all efforts trying to get the authorities to change their initial decision, and urge others with influence to contribute.

Numerous media articles and other sources of information about the proposed road can be found through a Google search, and many also through the Facebook page Stop the Serengei Highway. Here are a few direct links well worth checking out:

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Tony Sinclair and Kristine Metzger from University of British Columbia, Canada, Biodiversity Research Centre, have put together this short and educational presentation regarding the consequences of constructing a major highway through the northern part of the Serengeti National Park.

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You will on YouTube find an amazing number of films, video clips and slide shows from Serengeti - one of the wonders of the world. The above is made and posted by - "Serengeti Mega Herd Migration Scenes". The one below is posted by .

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Today we received an important and uplifting update from Tikki Hywood Trust, the organization that has dealt with the release of captured animals following Zimbabwe's decision to cancel the highly controversial deal with North Korea.

Our strong hope continue to be that Zimbabwe will ban the capture and sale of wild animals permanently, for the best interest of the animals themselves, Zimbabwe's tourism revenue and the country's world wide image. This is also what we argued for in the letter (180.02 kB) sent to Zimbabwe's wildlife authorities 21 May 2010, copied to President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and others. The letter was signed by over 50 organizations from around the world.

Todays newsletter from Tikki Hywood Trust:

For those of you who have not, yet read the full story of the animals captured in Hwange National Park, who were destined for an overseas zoo, please read our newsletter dated: July 10th 2010 at www.zimbabwe7.wildlifedirect.org

The very, anticipated morning arrived, 12th July 2010. Makwa and Kennedy (the juvenile male and female elephants) were to be moved to their new, if only temporary home - Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust (WHWT) in Victoria Falls. Both young elephants could not have behaved more perfectly. Thanks to the skill of Vic Coetzee and his years of experience in wildlife capture and handling, both elephants walked out of the bomas, which had been their home for the past two months, and onto the truck which was to take them to WHWT. When I learnt, that Vicus had agreed to do the capture and translocation of these two elephants, it most certainly brought a smile to my face. In 1992 it was the legendary Clem Coetzee, Vicus's father who taught me about wildlife and what conservation meant. I was to learn over those three months of moving family herds of elephants out of the drought stricken Ghonerezhou National Park, that people who care can move mountains, or perhaps in this case elephants.

We were delighted that the two National Park Elephant handlers who were taking care of Makwa and Kennedy in Hwange, were coming along as well to settle the elephants into their new home. This is hugely, important as the handlers have become the elephants surrogate family, and to minimise the stress and fear of translocation it is vital that they have a familiar face to reassure them. The trip from Umtshibi in Hwange National Park to WHWT is around 200 kms, so both elephants were given a mild sedative which helped with the journey.

When the truck arrived with both Makwa and Kennedy, the resident elephant herd at WHWT, could be heard. Makwa the female was the first to leave the safety of the truck. She was escorted to her new stable where there was food, water and browse ready, for her. Kennedy, the more wary of the two, followed shortly after Makwa. They were stabled independently but along side each other. Makwa and Kennedy were captured from two separate herds and so are not related, so in affect the two of them have to adapt to one another as well. The reason why the two young elephants have to now go through this rehabilitation phase is because the can not be returned to their family herds from which they were taken. When they were captured, they were going to an overseas zoo, and therefore parent herds were not marked for post-capture monitoring. So this means that their family herds cannot be reliably identified.

The following day both Makwa and Kennedy were taken out of their stables and introduced to the main herd which is to become their new family. This is still the first step in the rehabilitation of these two elephants, however so far things are looking positive and for the first time in a couple of months both elephants got to walk in amongst the bush, where they should always be. They are now part of a process where they will be socialising with other elephants of all ages, to develop a more natural herd system. By these two elephants being introduced to older elephants, they will also be disciplined and taught the social graces of what it is to being an elephant, a wild one that is.

On July 1st 2010 at the Toledo Zoo a seven-year-old juvenile male elephant, named Louie, attacked his keeper, Mr. Don RedFox. ElephantVoices´ Dr. Joyce Poole has written an open letter (106 kB) to Toledo Zoo CEO, Dr. Anne Baker, regarding this unfortunate incident, shown below. We send our condolences to Mr. RedFox and his family and hope for his full recovery.

It is ElephantVoices' opinion that what took place was a direct consequence of keeping elephants confined and under strict control. In doing so zoos compromise the real interests of these intelligent individuals. In the name of entertainment, education and conservation, Louie is incarcerated for the rest of his life, subjected to the whims and fancies of people, and deprived of space to roam, companions to meet, and things to explore. This is a tall order for inquisitive, emotional and social individuals like Louie and his kin.

It is, furthermore, our perspective that the various statements and reactions from the zoo community are a public relations exercise rather than a real effort to explain, truthfully and accurately, what took place in Louie's small stall. Based on decades-long experience, our viewpoint is that Louie was not behaving in a playful manner toward Mr. RedFox and neither was he exhibiting sparring behavior. Rather, the video shows Louie acting with intention to harm. That he was doing so is yet another reason for us to urge the zoo community to rethink the keeping of elephants captive.

Joyce Poole & Petter Granli

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Dear Dr. Baker,

I am writing to you regarding the unfortunate incident in which the seven-year-old juvenile male elephant, Louie, attacked Mr. Don RedFox. I wish to send my condolences to Mr. RedFox and his family. I hope that he is able to make a full recovery. I also wish to make a statement regarding the incident.

I have decades of experience studying the behavior and communication of wild African elephants and working for their conservation and welfare. Both my PhD research at Cambridge University and my post-doctoral research at Princeton University in the 1980s focused on aggressive behavior and signaling and assessment by male elephants. Since then I have documented the entire repertoire of African elephant postures and gestures, published in an online database on www.elephantvoices.org.

I have heard the viewpoints and read statements by zoo officials and zoo experts regarding the incident and I have had the possibility to view the video that was posted on the Toledo Blade website (http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100721/NEWS16/100729906).

Zoo officials and experts have suggested that Louie was "startled" and they have likened Louie's behavior to that of the roughhousing or "sparring" behavior observed between wild male elephants. As an expert on elephant behavior, I must disagree; Louie's behavior on the video shows a combination of apprehensive, submissive and aggressive behavior. Louie is not playful and neither is he sparring; Louie is interacting with Mr. RedFox with intent to harm.

I understand that public relations are a very important aspect of zoo communication. It is difficult to say whether the experts and officials speaking on behalf of the Toledo Zoo have misrepresented the situation on purpose, or whether they are lacking relevant expertise. It is important, however, that the public be given opposing viewpoints by other experts and that they be given the tools with which to make their own judgment about what happened. For this reason, I use specific terms to describe the aggressive and submissive elephant behavior that I observed in the video.

I include a link to our website where members of the public may search for these words on our elephant behavior database and view images and a description of the behavior (see aggressive postures at http://www.elephantvoices.org/multimedia-resources/elephantvoices-gestures-database.html?catid=3). This is what I observe and conclude:

Mr. RedFox approaches Louie. We are told that he carries carrots though it is not possible to identify what he has in his hands. Since elephants have an extraordinary ability to detect vibrations through the soles of their feet (they can pick up the footfalls of running zebras from over a mile away), Louie would have known that Mr. RedFox was approaching even if he had not heard him. In other words, it is unlikely that Louie was startled, as zoo experts have suggested. As soon as Louie turns to face Mr. RedFox his head is held high, his ears are spread and his trunk is curled under in a threatening posture (see the above online descriptions of aggressive behaviors - Standing-Tall, Head-High, Ear-Spreading; African elephants curl their trunks under in this way in two different situations - when they are apprehensive [see Trunk-Curved-Under] and when they are preparing to attack [see Ramming]). Then he steps toward Mr. RedFox and gives a slight Head-Nod in a further challenge to his trainer. Mr. RedFox responds by stepping back, and then continues to approach Louie. Louie backs and turns away (Turn-Away) from Mr. RedFox in a submissive posture, but then turns around to face Mr. RedFox again and lunges at him in a highly aggressive manner. He appears to make contact with Mr. RedFox and pushes him out of the stall (Pushing).

Mr. RedFox goes away and then reenters the stall with a bullhook. Louie first challenges him, but then Turns-Away away in a submissive manner. As Mr. RedFox approaches him with the bullhook, Louie appears to anticipate being hurt and he tries to tuck his back legs out of harms way (as seen on our database in an image under Tusking). Mr. RedFox uses the bullhook not to "touch" Louie, as zoo authorities have stated, but to "hook" him, and pull him around. Louie turns and immediately lunges at Mr. RedFox and pushes him into the corner and appears to bend down as if to tusk him (Ramming). Louie backs up, crouches down and then lunges forward bending down, Tusking and Ramming Mr. RedFox again. In the video that shows the last part of the incident from a different angle, Louie can be seen Ear-Folding, also a sign of aggression.

This is NOT the way that male elephants in the wild behave toward one another when they are Sparring. Rather, the incident has elements of how male elephants behave in an Escalated-Contest or when they are engaged in a Duel, when they attempt to kill one another, and it is similar to how a wild elephant behaves if he or she is trying to defend himself or herself against a human predator. This is certainly not play behavior (search under "Play" on the database to compare) and Louie shows no signs in this video of friendly behavior toward Mr. RedFox. Since the zoo uses free contact to control Louie, he has had years of experience at the end of a bullhook. My interpretation based on his behavior is that Louie is retaliating against a perceived threat.

Joyce H. Poole, PhD
Co-Director, ElephantVoices


 

We're certain that those of you who know about world-famous Echo, the late matriarch of the EB family, will enjoy some more time with her. As many of you are aware of, the EBs were our study group, so we are particularly fond of this wonderful and engaging family. You can watch a new documentary on BBC2 5th August at 8 PM (England) - a celebration of the life and legacy of Echo, who was born in 1945 and died in 2009. BBC's Natural World followed this very special elephant for the last 20 years of her life. The documentary will be shown on PBS on 17th October - stay tuned for more information.

The film reflects on the life of a remarkable elephant and discovers what happens to the family, bereft of Echo's leadership after half a century with her as their matriarch. You can find some interviews, video clips and photos related to "Echo an Unforgettable Elephant" here. A short teaser related to this program, introduced by Sir David Attenborough, is included below.

You can view some more photos of her, and listen to her voice, here. The photos and recordings on this page are from the work of ElephantVoices, partly incorporated in our online databases.

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The review team assessing the attack by Toledo Zoo's (Ohio, US) seven year old African elephant, Louie, on his keeper July 1 does not even try to explain why this might have happened, other than to say that Mr. RedFox first entered the enclosure without a bullhook. (Toledo Zoo press release) It took this unfortunate incident to get the zoo to begin caring for Louie using protected contact.

Bullhook - often called Guide by the zoos.We hope other zoos will move away from the use of bullhooks and instead adopt protected contact which gives elephants in zoos at least some measure of autonomy and choice in their very constrained zoo lives. Read more about bullhooks in this testimony to Massachusetts legislators about the use of bullhooks on elephants. (71.9 kB)

The relationship between Mr. RedFox and Louie was not one of friendship, as the Zoo tried to argue, but one of a man trying to exert his will over that of a much larger elephant. Dominance among wild elephants is based on body size; people try to "pull rank" and to maintain control over their much larger charges by using a bullhook for backup. In our opinion that is just asking for trouble.

Elephants have incredible memories - the wiring of their brains suggest even better than our own - and they are very good at keeping score. Louie exhibited a lot of aggression toward Mr. RedFox as is documented in our letter (106 kB) sent to Toledo Zoo's Executive Director, Dr. Anne Baker. You will find an introduction to the letter, and the video showing the attack, here.

There is a sad story behind every baby elephant who ends up in captivity. The worst examples are when they are forcibly taken from their families to entertain or work for us, or when their families are killed by poachers bullets.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya, rescues many of these orphaned babies and we warmly support their rehabilitation efforts. Several people have asked me to put online some photos from my recent visit to their orphanage. I hope you enjoy seeing the little video below, showing some intimate scenes from my meetings with "little" Kibo since I together with staff from Amboseli Elephant Research Project rescued him from a well near Sinya Mines west of Amboseli National Park in January 2009. Based on the circumstances around our first meeting, my attachment to my foster elephant Kibo is a special one. It gives me big pleasure to see that he is doing fine while being prepared for his long "journey" back to the wild.

You can find a news piece from the Kibo rescue here, a short follow up story here, and a small piece with a short video from a visit in March 2010 here.

You may enjoy watching a feature story from Sheldrick's orphanage aired on Australia's SBS Dateline show 17 October 2010, and check on the program For the Love Of Elephants on CBC's The Nature of Things aired 14 October. See trailer . (Canadian wiewers can see the whole program here.)

Cheers, Petter

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Screenshot Nature Vol. 467, 16 September 2010 Global reactions against the proposed highway through the Serengeti continue to pop up - and many distinguished scientists and organizations have added their voice. ElephantVoices brought forward part of the discussion and some sources of information in a news piece 16th July 2010.

One of the arguments mentioned in a thorough and constructive opinion piece, which appeared in the 16 September issue (Vol. 467) of Nature, is how the proposed road would allow easy access to poachers. Unlike some other populations in Tanzania, the elephants of the Serengeti have so far been largely spared the curse of illegal ivory hunters - due in part to its inaccessibility. A major commercial road through the heart of the Serengeti could easily change that, which added to other disastrous consequences of the proposed road would further demolish Tanzania's position as a responsible leader in conservation. You will find the Opinion Piece in Nature here (633.8 kB).

Ever since our fascinating visit to Sri Lanka in 2003 we have been following the elephant situation on this beautiful island with increasing anxiety. Forgive us for naively thinking that a Buddhist society with a value system that recognises non-human animals as an equal life form would take better care of elephants than others. In truth, the way in which elephants in the wild AND in captivity are managed and cared for in Sri Lanka is in desperate need of improvement. Indeed, in August this year Sri Lankan wildlife veterinarians went on strike to protest the mismanagement of elephants.

In this day and age of Internet communication, every article published is in the global domain. The appalling stories appearing online do not give confidence in the Government of Sri Lanka's ability to either care for the well being of elephants held captive, nor to secure a future for the wild members of a species so culturally and touristically important to the country. Both the Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa, and Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife, S. M. Chandrasena, must be informed that people all over the world care about what is happening and that, in addition to the purely conservation and ethical concerns, the continuing mismanagement and mistreatment of elephants has the potential to jeopardize Sri Lanka's tourism industry and must be addressed. The Ministers must also be informed that many of the human-elephant conflict interventions are merely exacerbating the situation. We believe both Ministers should be approached following a Cabinet reshuffle 22 Nov., since Minister Rajapaksa continue to be responsible for tourist-related issues, while S. M. Chandrasena's Ministry from the same date is responsible for Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The death of a Magnificent Tusker - and a call to action

This article and call to action is prompted by the terrible news of a magnificent tusker, "Parakrama", who was killed last week while being translocated, a practice that has led to numerous other heart-breaking elephant tragedies in Sri Lanka. Our readers may remember the story of "the lone battle of a four-legged Brigadiere," for example, who after being translocated, took to the sea, was towed in by the Navy, only to be found dead weeks later having fallen into a well. Like the "Brigadiere", the death of Parakrama has led to headlines around the world, and on Sri Lanka: Tusker tragedy prompts calls for safer transportation and Death of a tusker.

At the time of the incident, we felt that the news of Parakrama's death was just too upsetting to share through ElephantVoices. On reflection, however, and after many emails back and forth with our Sri Lankan colleagues, we decided to post one of many articles last week on Facebook. Parakrama, one of the country's few remaining tuskers, had been called a "National Treasure." His death is a symbol of Sri Lanka's many elephant conservation and welfare woes, and his passing at the hands of the Department of Wildlife Conservation must serve as a wake-up call. Accidents can happen, of course, but in our opinion there are far too many mistakes being made in the management of Sri Lanka's elephants.

No more superficial fixes - long-term solutions needed

More than 50 people and 228 elephants, an estimated 5% of the remaining wild population, were killed last year as a consequence of conflict. Translocating one elephant after another around the country, putting up fences that cause elephants to starve, and "resettling" elephants by driving them to new locations will not solve the problem. Human-elephant conflict is a land use issue that cannot be solved by piecemeal actions of the Department of Wildlife Conservation alone, especially when inspired by misled political pressure. There is an urgent need to come up with long-term solutions, which can only be found by engaging the country's many experienced conservationists, scientists, veterinarians and naturalists as well as individuals representing the Ministries governing land, settlement, agriculture, water and forestry. Lasting solutions must be found and new policies set for land use in order to halt Sri Lanka's further decline into a destructive cycle of violence between people and elephants - with elephants the ultimate losers.

Elephants will continue to try to live in the manner in which they have evolved. Therefore we urge the authorities to include elephant behaviour and movements patterns, and the role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems, as a starting point. With open dialogue and a more holistic and compassionate approach Sri Lanka can find workable solutions for the country's wild elephant population that offers hope for a better, kinder, more sustainable future for people as well as elephants. With the current World Bank project focusing on these issues there is no better time than the present to formulate new policies.

Sri Lanka's elephants and the people of Sri Lanka deserve and need to co-exist in a mutually beneficial way. Parakrama's death must not be in vain.

Please write to Basil Rajapaksa and S. M. Chandrasena to express your concerns:
Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development, Ministry of Economic Development
Presidential Secretariat Colombo 1 Office: Jagath/Aruna - for meetings/appointments, tel: +94-11-2333268,
Fax: +94-11-2438045, E-mail: arunakgap(at)yahoo.com), Political Secretary, tel: 94-777445560

S. M. Chandrasena, Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife, Ministry of Agrarian Services and Wildlife. Govijana Mandiraya, Rajamalwatte, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka, Fax #: +94-11 2887480 (direct).

 

Better treatment of captive elephants, no more exports

The Sri Lankan Government must also introduce legislation to protect elephants in captivity, as such laws are currently lacking. For example, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has become a haphazard breeding ground for elephants without proper plans for the future well being of these individuals. People in high places have taken decisions that have led to these babies being abducted from their Pinnawala mothers and gifted to temples or individuals, or sent to the Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo.

Many of the privately owned elephants are malnourished, lonely and abused. Those in the Dehiwala Zoo stand restrained, on concrete, biting their chains, straining against them and swaying in stereotypic behavior. Some of these individuals have been routinely shuffled about between facilities while others have been exported to foreign zoos with callous disregard for the special bonds that exist between elephants.

Since 2002 baby elephants have been shipped to zoos in China, Japan, Croatia and the Republic of Korea; New Zealand is next in line. US Zoos, too, including the National Zoo in Washington DC, are now eyeing Pinnawala as a source of elephants to fill their new exhibits. Indeed Minister Rajapaksa, himself, handed over the babies in Korea. Are foreign zoos really an appropriate destination for baby elephants, an Appendix I listed species, who should be properly cared for on Sri Lanka? We urge the Sri Lanka authorities to address these issues putting the well being of individual elephants before profit and politics. Elephants are intelligent, emotional and social beings not mere commodities to "gift" and do with what we will.

These photos are taken in Dehiwala Zoo (National Zoological Gardens, Colombo) during the last two years, most of them in August 2010. The smallest elephant, Indi, was abducted from her mother in Pinnawala. Joe, the only African elephant, is separated from the others by a wall, which he must reach over to obtain the physical contact fundamental to an elephant's wellbeing. The photographs speak for themselves of the desperation and pain these individuals suffer day in and day out.

Photos provided by: Earl Jayasuriya, Sankha Wanniatchi, Pradeep Kirindage, Michelle Mendis.

Roads to destroy ecosystems

We advise those of ElephantVoices visitors interested in Sri Lanka to read two previous articles, linked through screenshots right and below. We furthermore recommend you to read this article from 21 November 2010 - Uda Walawe: Flaunting laws and fuelling human-elephant conflict.

Screenshot the Sunday Times, Sri LankaThe new World Bank project mentioned in the article linked from the screenshot to the right could very well be an important milestone in the efforts towards conserving Sri Lanka's elephants for future generations. On the other hand - new roads through protected areas without proper environmental assessment is yet another serious threat to Sri Lanka's elephants and sensitive ecosystems. As a side note it could be said that the title "The road to destroying natural ecosystems" easily could have been seen covering the ongoing discussion about a proposed new road through Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Hopefully both the Sri Lankan and Tanzanian governments will realize what's at stake before it is too late. Both countries have a lot to lose!

Link to ElephantVoices Gestures Database. Image shows Post-Copulatory-Stance: A mated female stepping forward Head-Raising, Ear-Lifting, Tail-Raising and Rapid-Ear-Flapping, streaming Temporin and with Mouth-Open calls with a powerful series of characteristic rumbles. The female alternatively turns toward the male and reaches her trunk to touch his penis (Test-Genitals) or semen on the ground (Test-Semen) and then again turns rapidly outward and upward (away from the male; probably to ensure long-distance advertisement of availability; this would also qualify as a form of Spinning) Ear-Lifting, Tail-Raising and Rapid-Ear-Flapping and with Mouth-Open calls loudly and repeatedly at lengthening intervals and diminishing sound pressure levels. These extremely powerful and characteristic calls attract the attention of distant males and may be repeated for up to 45 minutes. Copyright: ElephantVoicesWe like to share with you some media articles on The Amboseli elephants: A long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal. We are delighted to see a focus on our particular contributions to the book - our chapters on elephant postures and gestures and vocal communication.

The Amboseli book has been very well received. We hope that many of you will feel it is a "must have" - also knowing that all royalties from this book goes straight to Amboseli Trust for Elephants. The Amboseli Elephant Research Project really is the benchmark study of African elephants and this book documents the many discoveries that have been made over almost four decades of monitoring and research. The findings and continued work of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project is of major importance for all efforts related to elephants and elephant conservation around the world.

You can read and download the articles mentioned through the links below:

icon New Scientist: Nature's great masterpiece. Opinion interview Cynthia Moss. (607.98 kB)

icon Mail Online: Squabbles over directions, rows and discussions: How the elephant world mirrors our own (405.7 kB)

icon Sunday Times: Chats, flirting and travel rows - Jumbo is just like us. (198.51 kB)

Visit ElephantVoices online databases related to gestures and communication:

ElephantVoices Gestures Database

ElephantVoices Call Database - Call Types

ElephantVoices Call Database - Contexts

The long-awaited scientific book, The Amboseli elephants: A long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal, was launched in February 2011. All royalties from the book go to Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

ElephantVoices' Joyce and/or Petter have contributed to six chapters in the book including:

  • Ethical approaches to elephant conservation
  • The behavioral context of African elephant acoustic communication
  • Signals, gestures and behaviors of African elephants
  • Longevity, competition and musth: A long-term perspective on male reproductive strategies
  • Male social dynamics: Independence and beyond
  • Decision-making and leadership in the using the ecosystem


By using this link to buy the book you
also support ElephantVoices

In early 2011 ElephantVoices launched "Elephant Partners", an elephant conservation project based in the Maasai Mara ecosystem. The goal of Elephant Partners is to develop a working model for citizens to monitor and protect elephants. The first half of 2011 will be a pilot period - while we continue to prepare and fundraise for the main phase of the project which will start later in the year.

The concept, put simply, is to connect individual people - guides, scouts, rangers, researchers, photographers, tourists, people of the Maasai Mara and all people who care - with the lives of individual elephants. Through use of the Internet and social and educational media our intention is to develop a community of people sharing their knowledge about the Mara elephants and working together to protect them. Harambee is a Kiswahili word meaning working together for a common purpose. It is our belief that this harambee spirit can engender the understanding, compassion, enthusiasm and collective custodianship needed for people and elephants to co-exist in a mutually beneficial way. We hope that it will also help to focus attention on, and bolster the important work of, the newly formed conservancies, since the future of elephants and other landscape species depends upon their commercial success.

We are building an online searchable database to store elephant identification photographs - so that people (Maasai Mara residents, visitors and friends worldwide) can get to know elephants by name. And we will be preparing an online database and blog where Mara friends can upload observations, photos and comments on Mara elephants (their behavior, movements, interactions, conflicts, threats, etc.) to share with other participants, the authorities and the general public. Through the use of mobile phones we will be developing an efficient way for people to collect and upload observations.


Matriarch f0001 seen in 1998 near Musiara swamp...


...and 12 years later on Mara Naboisho Conservancy 50 km to
the east. (Photos ©ElephantVoices)


Elephants are an iconic landscape species

Elephants attract global attention because they are both charismatic and threatened, and because they play an important role in the structure of ecosystems. Due to their immense size, sociality and intelligence, they also serve as important Ambassadors for other species. If we are able to save space for elephants, we will protect the other species, along with them.

Current ecological theory argues that elephants are best conserved through the management of linkages between landscapes, which can account for their large-scale movements. When elephants are confined by fences, by conflict with people or by threats from poachers they can have a negative impact on habitat and, consequently, on biodiversity. But when they are permitted to roam, their presence and foraging creates a mosaic of habitats that promotes biodiversity.

Being intelligent social animals, elephants learn where they are safe with extraordinary speed. They are vulnerable to ivory poaching and conflict with people, and respond to these threats from people with amplified aggression or by retreating into protected habitats for safety. As long as poaching and conflict remain threats to elephants, how can these crucial ecological linkages be maintained? This is where the Maasai Mara Conservancies and the behavior of people is so important.

People and elephants need a mutually beneficial relationship

To encourage elephants to use a wider area and, simultaneously, reduce human-elephant conflict, elephants need access to a network of places where they feel safe that are away from areas where elephant cause conflict. Such safe-havens can be provided by a mosaic of protected areas, conservancies, private and community land where, concurrently, people can benefit through tourism from the presence of elephants. Smart land use, goodwill, understanding and effort are needed to build a relationship between people and elephants that works to the advantage of both parties. Compassion is also a crucial ingredient in this relationship that is often missing in conservation projects (see new conservation movement www.compassionateconservation.org) and is key to the community Elephant Partners hopes to engender.

To achieve its vision Elephant Partners must serve and belong to everyone: The many conservancies (Mara, Mara North, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oiroua, Enonkishu, Motorogi, Olare Orok, Mara Naboisho, Ol Kinyei, see map), Kenya Wildlife Service, Maasai Mara National Reserve, members of the local community, the tourism sector and members of the general public. Elephant Partners will have a base in centrally located Mara Naboisho Conservancy, which is also home to the Koiyaki Guiding School, an important collaborator in this initiative.

Follow the Mara elephants - join Elephant Partners!

We are reliant upon on collaboration and participation to build an enthusiastic and committed team of Elephant Partners! Read updates here on ElephantVoices.org, on ElephantVoices on Facebook and on Elephant Partners on Facebook.

(A Facebook badge below is only shown if you are logged on to your Facebook account)


Dear Friends of Elephants,

Petter and JoyceIn this issue of our eNewsletter we share with you some of our achievements and activities of recent months. Since the scope of our little organization involves everything from scientific research, elephant conservation and welfare, as well as educating the public, our working days are lively and present us with diverse challenges. This variety is reflected in the items included below. The common denominator is our desire to make the world a better place for elephants - now and in the future.

Best wishes, Joyce and Petter

The Mara elephants and Elephant Partners

The Mara elephants are coming under increasing threat from the ivory poaching situation and conflict with people. Joyce and Petter spent January and part of February in the Mara getting a new elephant conservation initiative, Elephant Partners, off the ground. You can read a blog report from that trip here. To generate interest in the Mara elephants, and as a platform to exchange information about them, we have created a Facebook Page dedicated to this initiative. In half a year it has grown to close to 1,000 members. Some of our followers are quite active, often responding with useful information and about the elephants that they have seen and photographed. These records are helping us to follow the movements of some of the more charismatic elephants.

If you want to read more about the Mara elephants and some of our early reflections, you can browse through this note published on Elephant Partners Facebook page. Further down you will find a separate piece on the project's unique online interface.

We are pleased to report that the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation, the National Geographic Society's Conservation Trust, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Moorhead Family Fund, Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy, the Franz Weber Foundation, Friends of Conservation, as well as generous individuals are supporting this project. We warmly thank these organizations and individuals for making this project possible.

Read more

Bullhook - abusive tool for animal controlBIG VICTORY for elephant welfare!

We have worked hard with our many colleagues to persuade the AZA and individual zoos to drop the use of bullhooks. The AZA Board has just decided that all AZA institutions must make the change over to protected contact by 2014. Protected contact places elephants and their keepers in separate spaces and removes domination, discipline and bullhooks as methods of control and gives elephants more autonomy. An incident at the Toledo Zoo in August last year and a consequent news piece with links on ElephantVoices highlights the major issues surrounding free contact.

Book cover on Amazon.com - click to peak inside!The Amboseli Elephants - get the book today!

In February, after decades of observations, years of analysis and writing, and months of editing, the tome, The Amboseli elephants: A long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal was published by University of Chicago Press. The book is a culmination of four decades of study of the Amboseli elephant population in Kenya. Led by Cynthia Moss, the Amboseli Elephant Research Project is the longest study of elephants in the world and many individuals have contributed to this work.

ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole and/or Petter Granli are authors on six of the book's chapters covering such topics as acoustic communication, postural and gestural communication, leadership, male independence and sociality, reproductive success and musth, as well as ethics and elephant conservation. Get your copy - or click on book cover to peak inside.

Poaching and the ivory trade - the slaughter continues

The recent surge in the killing of elephants across Africa and Asia is being fueled by rising demand for ivory in the Far East. Anti-poaching, intelligence and law enforcement efforts simply must be increased. But, if we want to put an end to this senseless slaughter of elephants we must also tackle the demand for ivory. The single most important effort, in our view, is to educate would-be consumers. Ivory  message in English, Chinese and Japanese. (Photo/creation by ElephantVoices)One way we do this is by keeping dedicated pages on ElephantVoices up to date with relevant information. If you google the words ivory and poaching this ElephantVoices page comes high up, and the same with this one. Other related words and combinations of words keeps us high up on the list of search returns - we are proud that ElephantVoices is having an impact! Our hope is that the concern and voices of many will force China and others to act for the future survival of elephants. A recent meeting of the CITES Standing Committee indicates that the seriousness of the situation is understood - what remains is swift action among CITES members when it comes to controlling both demand and supply.

Follow some of the world-wide media coverage of the ivory trade and poaching here - and please let your voice against the ivory trade be heard when appropriate.

Scientific papers published

In March the Proceedings of the Royal Society published Leadership in elephants: the adaptive value of age (335.01 kB), a study led by Karen McComb. Joyce was one of the authors of this paper, which showed, once again, the importance of the presence of older leaders to elephant society.

Older elephants are often the targets of poachers bullets because they have larger tusks, and because they come to the fore in defense of their families. Protecting the lives of these wise leaders of elephant society is one more reason to put an end to the gruesome trade in the teeth of these intelligent animals.

Joyce was also an author in a publication (229.86 kB) resulting from a study by Patrick Chiyo of male elephant association patterns, published in Animal Behaviour in March. As Joyce noted in her 1982 Phd thesis (34.12 MB), Chiyo found that male elephants generally associate with others males in a rather random fashion, though they also show distinct preferences for a few valuable partners. Closer analysis by Chiyo uncovered that these networks of valuable “friendships

On April 22nd 2012, Gay Bradshaw posted an article in her blog in Psychology Today critiquing War Elephants and Joyce Poole's role in it. Here is Joyce's response to it.

Dear Gay,

I awoke this morning to an email from a colleague who has done more to highlight the plight of elephants than almost anyone I know. It read: "I presume you saw this. I am so sorry. How ignorant of her. If it makes any difference, I saw the NGS film and was proud to know you. Hang in there.

Through Junia Machado and other good elephant friends in Brazil, ElephantVoices is working hard for the best interest of elephants in this progressive country. Our main objectives are

To create awareness about elephant conservation and the welfare needs of captive elephants in Brazil, and to secure that a sanctuary for elephants is established as soon as possible.

To get such a sanctuary in Brazil off the ground is key to discussions about getting elephants suffering in circuses and bad zoos moved to a new home. Without having a good alternative in place for abused elephants, it is difficult to get the political process regarding elephant welfare moving forward. Junia and others are currently learning as much as possible about the captive elephants in Brazil - many kept under terrible conditions. ElephantVoices believe there are 25 elephants in Brazilian zoos, and 6 in circuses or chained on rural properties, but are still working to get these figures and details related to each elephant confirmed.

Consulation with The Elephant Sanctuary (TES), Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and individuals with sanctuary experience is obviously on the agenda to be able to bring plans for a sanctuary in Brazil forward, and all efforts are based on Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles (148.66 kB), developed by ElephantVoices. During PAWS Summit for Elephants in California in March 2012 ElephantVoices also met with Elephant Haven, an initiative meant to lead to a much needed elephant sanctuary in Europe (France).

Junia Machado's interest in elephants was triggered when she was eight years old, and when she saw Teresita in São Paulo Zoo some years ago, she decided to do her best for elephants and contacted ElephantVoices. Since then she has built up a network of people volunteering time and energy for elephants. Together with co-volunteer Ana Zinger in Rio de Janeiro and Ticiana Carneiro in São Paulo she has started blogging on ElephantVoices Brasil and also launched ElephantVoices Brasil on Facebook. In addition to news related to captive elephants in Brasil, and hand-picked news from around the world, Junia and her Brazilian team post material and news from ElephantVoices.org, all translated into portuguese.


Junia and Ana have met up with Petter and Joyce in Kenya and the Maasai Mara twice, and in March 2012 they joined at PAWS Summit for Elephants hosted by Oakland Zoo. Junia and Ana are also contributing work and data to ElephantVoices' conservation initiative for the Mara elephants, Elephant Partners.

Our main collaborators in Brazil, in addition to Junia Machado and Ana Zinger, are Maria Cristina Mullins, Teca Franco, Martha Toledo, Tiago Esteves Carvalhaes, Andrea Schmidt, Mayara Barbi and Carol Toledo. There are also other volunteers supporting their efforts on specific issues, like Mario Duarte, Luciana Dallari, Ticiana Carneiro, Felicia Mendonça, Sabrina Cury, José Licciardi and Marcos Marcello. Two agronomists, Cesar Frizzo and Vanessa Rizzi, are currently checking land-related issues and possibilities in connection with a future sanctuary.

ElephantVoices Brasil is also networking with a substantial number of people working for elephants in other countries in South-America, and aims to contribute ideas and the sound science-based knowledge of ElephantVoices wherever it can be of help. Get in touch with Junia if you want to join ElephantVoices Brasil in their efforts!

Gorongosa National Park, in Sofala Province, Mozambique, is the location of ElephantVoices' latest elephant monitoring and conservation project. In 2011 ElephantVoices was invited to Gorongosa to assess the elephants and to begin a process of habituation so that encounters between elephants and visitors can be peaceful. Habituating elephants to tourist vehicles is important because without income earned from visitors, this beautiful, biodiverse habitat cannot be protected. With today's pressure on natural resources, and ivory poaching at a new peak, ensuring the survival of Gorongosa is imperative.

Understanding and respecting the signals of elephants

In 1972 Gorongosa was home to over 2000 elephants, but between 1977 and 1992 civil conflict took the lives of most of these individuals. Elephant meat was used to fed soldiers and ivory was sold for the purchase of arms and ammunition. By the time peace was restored less than 200 individuals remained. Today, thanks to intervention by the Mozambican Government and the Gorongosa Restoration Project, there are roughly 300-400 elephants in Gorongosa, and their numbers are gradually increasing. Yet, the survivors haven't forgotten their gruesome experiences and they are still, understandably, wary of people and they continue to avoid large areas of the national park.

Gorongosa sign

We habituate elephants to vehicles by approaching them slowly and turning off the car engine at the first signs of fear or aggression. By doing so we show them that we understand and respect their signals, that we mean them no harm and that we are not afraid of their bravado.

Elephants are the quintessential drama queens; they revel in making a big deal about almost anything. And they display some of the most dramatic and terrifying defensive behavior. This makes for good television and some of our initial encounters with elephants in Gorongosa were filmed for National Geographic's documentary, War Elephants. It is fair to say that the editing of the film overdramatized our interactions for the TV audience. In reality we met very normal elephants behaving much as we expected them to, thinking about their history. And the many elephants that we have met on more than one occasion are learning that we do not represent a threat.

Gorongosa Elephants Who's Who & Whereabouts

In October 2012 we began working with the Gorongosa elephants in earnest. We are using a customized version of the Who's Who & Whereabouts databases developed by ElephantVoices for our Mara elephant conservation initiative, Elephant Partners.

With these tools we register each elephant and collect observations in a systematic and efficient way. In collaboration with the Gorongosa Restoration Project and the National Park management we may, in time, make the Gorongosa Elephants Who's Who & Whereabouts Databases available to the public to explore, learn from and contribute to.

Each elephant in a population is an important individual and we are identifying and registering elephants, one by one, and populating the Gorongosa Who's Who Database with photographs, physiognomic characteristics, and life history information. Along the way we are learning who is fearful, who is aggressive and we are spending extra time with these individuals to build their trust.

As we accumulate knowledge of individuals and their families, we are working toward estimating the size and structure of the population. For example, what proportion of the population is male and female, young and old? Since this population has come through a period of extreme ivory poaching, a large portion of the population is tuskless. How many tuskless elephants are there? What are their ages and what does demographic pattern reflect about their past and mean for their future survival?

More knowledge as basis for better protection

Observations of individuals and families are being uploaded to the Gorongosa Whereabouts Database so that we can understand the patterns that define this population, allowing management to better protect them. For example, we need to know who spends time with whom, where they go, when and why.

As we get to know the elephants we will be training rangers and guides how to collect elephant data and how to approach elephants, with both the interest of people and elephants being a priority. Based on what we learn, we will be engaging with other Gorongosa research scientists and the management team to determine possible future elephant studies and conservation strategies.

Dear Friends of ElephantVoices,

Petter and JoyceWe are pleased to share our elephant news with you once again. During a time when every new day brings headlines about the devastating poaching crisis, we are non-the-less making positive steps forward in our work for elephants. We are delighted to report that we have received a three year grant from JRS Biodiversity Foundation for our elephant conservation initiative in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. We think the potential in a citizen science and web-based approach to elephant conservation is substantial, and we are using some of the same tools in the project we are developing in Gorongosa, Mozambique.

Poaching IS spiraling out of control and only the entire world acting together will save the planet's remaining elephants. YOU can contribute by spreading the word through your network to every corner of the globe - elephants are in serious trouble and the world needs to ACT NOW: STOP the BUYING and SELLING of IVORY!

We still have a ways to go to cover our funding requirements for 2012 and 2013, so if you like what we do please remember ElephantVoices in your annual giving - and thank you for following us!

Best wishes, for the elephants,

Joyce and Petter

ElephantVoices' Mara conservation initiative - Elephant Partners

We recently returned from a very informative field trip to the Mara, where we expanded the range of our project beyond the Maasai Mara National Reserve and its neighboring conservancies to encompass the Loita Hills and the Naimena Enkiyo Forest - translated from Maa as the Forest of the Lost Child. With the help of people we met on our way we hope to establish the routes used by elephants to and from the Mara.

Looking for elephant signs at salt lick near Walking with Maasai/Olkoroi Camp, with Amos Munai and Parit Kashu.The project encompasses an incredibly biologically diverse landscape, and presents us with both logistical challenges and exciting opportunities. Thanks to a grant received from the JRS Biodiversity Foundation in June this year, we now have the core funding to develop and expand this unique project. We plan to be in the Mara ecosystem for up to 6 months each year for the next three years, with our next field trip planned to run from late November 2012 through mid March 2013.

We now have 796 adult elephants registered on the Mara Elephants Who’s Who and 966 elephant group sightings uploaded to the Mara Elephants Whereabouts. Learn about how our project works and how you can participate by watching Joyce’s 15 minute presentation at the National Geographic Explorers’ Symposium. And if you live in or plan to visit the Mara and neighboring areas please join us! All you have to do is to get yourself a smartphone based on Android, download the Mara EleApp from Android Market and get started. Name an elephant or contribute data. We look forward to see you online!

ElephantVoices launches Gorongosa project

Gorongosa elephants. Photo by Andreas Ziegler.At the invitation of the Gorongosa National Park, ElephantVoices is initiating a new elephant monitoring and conservation project in this wonderful part of Mozambique. The project aims to establish baseline data on the elephant population for the national park wildlife management team to best protect it. We will be gathering data to establish the size of the elephant population, its structure, association patterns, the proportion of tuskless individuals, as well as habitat occupancy and human-elephant conflict. And we will be looking at behavior. To do this we will be getting to know each of the elephants individually.

The first set of data on the elephants were collected in August/September 2011. We are returning this year for an intense three-week field trip during which we will be both collecting data and training others. Follow our progress via ElephantVoices on Facebook.

Blood Ivory - poaching out of control

2012 is déjà vu for Joyce. It’s a recurring bad dream. In the late 1980s when elephants were being slaughtered at an unprecedented rate, she carried out surveys on east african elephant populations to document the impact that poaching was having on their reproductive and social behavior. And she helped write the proposal that led to the international ivory trade being banned in 1989. In the 17 years that followed she watched elephant populations recover numerically and socially. Until, 2007, when the international body that regulates trade in endangered species, CITES, permitted the export of ivory from five southern Africa countries and included China as a trading partner. Goodness, killed in August 2012. Photo: Gina Poole.Then we watched the inevitable happen - hell began to break loose. In 2010 we voiced our grave concern in a paper published in Science (395.07 kB) and we spoke at CoP15 in Qatar against any further trade. At that time the authorities poo-pooed our concern. Not now. With the killing totally out of control, the UN recently noted elephant poaching as a threat to global security.

In the Maasai Mara ecosystem, where we work, elephants are partly protected by the presence of tourists. But, in the first three months of 2012 some 42 elephants were illegally killed there. In a spate of more recent slaughter our beloved “Goodness

In June, faciliated by the Humane Society International, I was invited by the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) to attend a two day meeting of 47 Chinese Zoo Directors in Shenzhen, China. My invitation followed the bad press that China received in relation to the importation of baby elephants from Zimbabwe late last year. At least one of these babies died and another became seriously ill. Zimbabwe had earlier given assurances that it would stop the capture of baby elephants for captivity and the news of the shipment and deaths and rumour that more babies were awaiting capture and export, prompted an international outcry.

The CAGZ was eager not to be caught up in such exposure again and I was asked to give a 90 minute presentation on the topic of "The Importance of Animal Behavior in Import Decisions". The trip to China offered an excellent opportunity to also speak about another topic involving elephants and China and Petter and I decided that I should extend my stay to include Hong Kong and Beijing to talk about elephants, poaching and the ivory trade.

I arrived in Hong Kong on the afternoon 14 June and that evening gave a lecture on elephants and the ivory trade at the Royal Geographical Society and an interview with Jennifer Ngo of the South China Morning Post (click for headline). Jennifer’s article was picked up by The Daily Mail and also the New York Times and Asia News.

The following morning, 15 June, I was interviewed by freelance journalist, Kate Whitehead, and by Joyee Chan, who wrote an article for the Young Readers edition of the South China Morning Post published on 2 July.

That afternoon in a Starbucks in Kowloon was the first meeting of a loose group of people who are keen to do something to stop the trafficking of ivory through Hong Kong and into China. In the photographs below from left to right Christian Pilard (Eco-Sys Action Foundation), Joyce Lau and Victoria Chin (both Jane Goodall Institute), Alex Hofford (Conservation Photo journalist), Joyce Poole (ElephantVoices) and Iris Ho (Humane Society International). Alex took some photos while showing me a couple of ivory outlets in Hong Kong - I wasn't amused.

Celia Ho, the "Elephant Girl" arrived soon afterwards and we had a really nice meeting just the two of us, in which she presented me with an origami elephants with the words “Every Tusk Costs a Life, Don’t Buy Ivory

As many of our supporters know, for the last couple of years ElephantVoices has been working with team members in Brazil to promote and support progressive legislation to end the antiquated practice of performing elephants. A connected strategy has been to explore the development of an elephant sanctuary in Brazil. Many captive elephants in Brazil and other South American countries are in dire need of better welfare and living conditions. To help put an end to their suffering, a sanctuary in Brazil is urgently needed.

Recently, Scott Blais, co-founder of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and his partner, Katherine Blais, have established a new non-profit entity, Global Sanctuary for Elephants (GSfE), with financial and other support from ElephantVoices.

Dedicated to the development and support of progressive, holistic, natural habitat elephant sanctuaries internationally, GSfE will spearhead the exciting and, for elephants, important effort in Brazil. Brazil is for many reasons a well suited location for a sanctuary - with the climate, available habitats permitting natural foraging and social behavior, the potential of progressive policies and a our established team of enthusiastic volunteers being just a few.

A collaborative initiative with ambitious goals

Joyce (far left) and Petter with Ana Zinger and Junia Machado, ElephantVoices Brasil. Photo: ElephantVoices. With their vast experience with captive elephants, Scott and Katherine will take the lead on this initiative working closely with ElephantVoices Brazil, while ElephantVoices Directors, Petter Granli and Dr. Joyce Poole, will continue to provide advice and consult on all major developments. ElephantVoices Brazil, the team of volunteers led by Junia Machado, will coordinate all on-the-ground activities, working with Brazilian officials, investigating new opportunities including exploration of possible properties to develop, and they will continue to build the fundamental, professional relationships so essential to moving this project forward. Together we have agreed that Elephant Sanctuary Brazil (ESB) will be fostered under the guiding principles previously established by ElephantVoices and available on Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles.

ElephantVoices cares deeply about the long-term health and welfare of captive elephants. We feel confident that under the direction of Scott and Katherine, Elephant Sanctuary Brazil will transform the future for elephants in South America while also serving as an international benchmark for other sanctuary-initiatives to emulate. To see ESB up and running will be like a dream coming true.

Lots of hard work ahead - Brazil has highest priority

As we now set out on the long road forward, several phases need to be developed and substantial funds need to be raised to bring Elephant Sanctuary Brazil to fruition. The first phase of development is for Scott and Kat to join ElephantVoices team members on the ground in Brazil to finalize plans moving forward, and to gather the basis for a sanctuary prospectus. While in Brazil, they will assess identified properties for potential development, meet with key government officials and Brazilian stakeholders and investigate construction options that will allow us to formalize the long-term financial needs and to formulate land acquisition and construction budgets.

In addition to human resources, ElephantVoices has committed $10,000 toward the $30,000 budget needed to fund this first phase and we have already received another $3,500 from supporting animal welfare groups. Now the project team will be working to secure the remaining $16,500 to expedite the first phase toward helping elephants in South America walk and live in sanctuary.

 

We urge you to consider supporting ESB and/or GSfE

For the past 20 years we have witnessed the tremendous impact of two iconic elephant sanctuaries in North America, The Elephant Sanctuary (TES) and Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), as they have transformed the lives of those lucky enough to find sanctuary. You can be a part of making that dream a reality for elephants throughout South America. With your support of Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, together we can ensure that those elephants who have already served a life sentence performing, can soon find the peace, space and autonomy they need and deserve. We request the help of everyone (individuals, companies and animal welfare agencies alike) committed to working for a better quality of life for elephants to help raise the funds needed to move this pivotal first phase forward.

Please donate online through one of the links below:
Global Sanctuary for Elephants
Crowdfunding campaign for Elephant Sanctuary Brasil
ElephantVoices. If you donate through ElephantVoices, be certain to designate your funds for the Elephant Sanctuary Brazil Project on the dropdown menu.

Poor Semba passed away - we need to move forward NOW

Late elephant Semba.Over the past few weeks we’ve learned that Semba, a circus elephant who spent her life on the road across South America, and who we hoped would one day find freedom at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, passed away without warning. We don’t know any details about her cause of death, but we do know that her life will not be forgotten as we push forward with greater urgency to ensure that other captive elephants are offered a freedom Semba was denied.

Follow us on Facebook to hear more about the latest developments toward a compassionate future for elephants in Brazil and throughout South America. You'll find more information on:

- ElephantVoices
- Global Sanctuary for Elephants
- GSfE on facebook
- Elephant Sanctuary Brazil

For inquires or offers of assistance please contact:
in the U.S. – Scott Blais
in Brazil – Junia Machado

No-trade-press-release-685w.jpg

For Immediate Release February 11, 2014

Ivory Trade Ban Essential to Save Elephants

As world leaders gather in London on 13 February to attend a summit – hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and attended by Prince Charles and Prince William – to confront the escalating poaching crisis decimating the world’s iconic wildlife, 23 environmental, conservation, and animal welfare groups from 14 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America demand a permanent ban on both domestic and international trade in ivory and the destruction of all government-held stocks.

Experts estimate approximately 50,000 elephants were killed in 2013 to satisfy the demand for ivory – largely from China. This level of poaching has not been seen since the 1980s. Without urgent action to end the ivory trade now, elephants may soon become extinct in parts of their range in Africa and Asia. The poaching is also devastating rural communities, sustaining terrorist groups and armed militias, and driving domestic conflict. Tragically, more than 1,000 rangers have lost their lives worldwide in the fight against poaching over the last decade, with untold impacts on their families. The human toll does not stop there. Vulnerable communities are being exploited by traffickers and drawn into criminal activities, while tourism is being compromised amid the decline in security.

Over the past six years, enforcement authorities in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have intercepted massive amounts of illegal ivory. In 2013 alone, at least 45 tonnes were seized. But considering that law enforcement experts estimate that 10 percent of illegally traded ivory is seized, far more has slipped through the net. Most of the illegal ivory is ending up in China to be sold as chopsticks, jewelry, and carvings. Japan also remains an important consumer of illegal ivory tusks through a government “registration” process, which every year legalizes tonnes of ivory of unknown origin.

Demand for ivory has been stimulated by two “experimental, one-off” sales approved by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) – of 49 tonnes in 1999 and 108 tonnes in 2008, all from government stocks in southern Africa. Despite strong opposition by many non-governmental organizations, the 2008 sale allowed China to purchase 62 tonnes, fueling demand for ivory among increasingly affluent Chinese citizens, driving prices up, and facilitating the laundering of massive quantities of illegal ivory as “legal”.

“There is broad agreement that legalizing ivory trade to China and Japan has been a huge mistake. We need to learn from history and permanently shut down all ivory trade – international and domestic”, says Mary Rice, Executive Director, Environmental Investigation Agency.

A 1989 ban on ivory trade largely halted the slaughter of elephants by slashing the price of ivory and substantially reducing poaching – allowing elephant populations to recover. However, this successful policy has been undermined not only by the two stockpile sales, but also by persistent discussions in CITES aimed at legalising trade over the long-term.

Reducing demand for wildlife products is one of the stated goals of the London summit on illegal wildlife trade. A parallel legal trade in ivory, however, will negate demand-reduction efforts.

“If world leaders are serious about ending the illegal ivory trade, they need to urgently implement an ivory trade ban. This includes closing down domestic ivory markets around the world, especially in China and Japan, and stopping the ongoing debate about legalizing ivory trade”, states Sally Case, Chief Executive Officer, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. “Anything else will only add to the elephant body count, and drive the African and Asian elephants closer to extinction, fuel more conflict, and sacrifice the lives of more rangers”. The legal domestic ivory market in China is considered to be the greatest threat to elephants.

The elephant poaching crisis has not gone unnoticed by governments. In the last three years Gabon, the Philippines, and the United States have destroyed confiscated ivory stockpiles. In January 2014, China destroyed a portion of its stockpile. France crushed 3.4 tonnes in February 2014. And Hong Kong, a key destination and transit country for illegal ivory, is set to follow suit, with plans to crush more than 28 tonnes of ivory. Moreover, in an attempt to address the crisis, there have been numerous discussions and high level meetings held, new initiatives announced, and commitments and declarations issued.

Yet, the poaching of elephants will continue as long as ivory is a legal commodity, driving demand. “No amount of rhetoric, money, or enforcement actions will save elephants unless there is an immediate, permanent, and comprehensive ban on the trade in ivory”, declares Charlotte Nithart, Director of Robin des Bois.

Contacts:

Mary Rice, Environmental Investigation Agency, +44 7810 640 532

Vicky Flynn, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, +44 (0) 1483 272323

Alex Kennaugh, Natural Resources Defense Council, +44 795 041 6353

Charlotte Nithart, Robin des Bois, +33 1 48 04 09 36

Supporting organizations:

Amboseli Trust for Elephants

Animal Welfare Institute

Ateneo School of Government

Conservation Justice

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Eco Activists for Governance & Law Enforcement

Elephant Action League

Elephant Family

ElephantVoices

Environmental Investigation Agency

Foundation Franz Weber

Hong Kong for Elephants

International Ranger Federation

Last Great Ape Organization

Natural Resources Defense Council

Projet d’Appui a l’Application de la Loi sur la Faune Sauvage

Pro Wildlife

Robin des Bois

The Thin Green Line Foundation

The Tsavo Trust

WildlifeDirect

Youth for Conservation

As many of our supporters know, for the last couple of years ElephantVoices has been working with team members in Brazil to promote and support progressive legislation to end the antiquated practice of performing elephants. A connected strategy has been to explore the development of an elephant sanctuary in Brazil. Many captive elephants in Brazil and other South American countries are in dire need of better welfare and living conditions. To help put an end to their suffering, a sanctuary in Brazil is urgently needed.

Recently, Scott Blais, co-founder of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and his partner, Katherine Blais, have established a new non-profit entity, Global Sanctuary for Elephants (GSfE), with financial and other support from ElephantVoices.

Dedicated to the development and support of progressive, holistic, natural habitat elephant sanctuaries internationally, GSfE will spearhead the exciting and, for elephants, important effort in Brazil. Brazil is for many reasons a well suited location for a sanctuary - with the climate, available habitats permitting natural foraging and social behavior, the potential of progressive policies and a our established team of enthusiastic volunteers being just a few.

A collaborative initiative with ambitious goals

Joyce (far left) and Petter with Ana Zinger and Junia Machado, ElephantVoices Brasil. Photo: ElephantVoices. With their vast experience with captive elephants, Scott and Katherine will take the lead on this initiative working closely with ElephantVoices Brazil, while ElephantVoices Directors, Petter Granli and Dr. Joyce Poole, will continue to provide advice and consult on all major developments. ElephantVoices Brazil, the team of volunteers led by Junia Machado, will coordinate all on-the-ground activities, working with Brazilian officials, investigating new opportunities including exploration of possible properties to develop, and they will continue to build the fundamental, professional relationships so essential to moving this project forward. Together we have agreed that Elephant Sanctuary Brazil (ESB) will be fostered under the guiding principles previously established by ElephantVoices and available on Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles.

ElephantVoices cares deeply about the long-term health and welfare of captive elephants. We feel confident that under the direction of Scott and Katherine, Elephant Sanctuary Brazil will transform the future for elephants in South America while also serving as an international benchmark for other sanctuary-initiatives to emulate. To see ESB up and running will be like a dream coming true.

Lots of hard work ahead - Brazil has highest priority

As we now set out on the long road forward, several phases need to be developed and substantial funds need to be raised to bring Elephant Sanctuary Brazil to fruition. The first phase of development is for Scott and Kat to join ElephantVoices team members on the ground in Brazil to finalize plans moving forward, and to gather the basis for a sanctuary prospectus. While in Brazil, they will assess identified properties for potential development, meet with key government officials and Brazilian stakeholders and investigate construction options that will allow us to formalize the long-term financial needs and to formulate land acquisition and construction budgets.

In addition to human resources, ElephantVoices has committed $10,000 toward the $30,000 budget needed to fund this first phase and we have already received another $3,500 from supporting animal welfare groups. Now the project team will be working to secure the remaining $16,500 to expedite the first phase toward helping elephants in South America walk and live in sanctuary.

 

We urge you to consider supporting ESB and/or GSfE

For the past 20 years we have witnessed the tremendous impact of two iconic elephant sanctuaries in North America, The Elephant Sanctuary (TES) and Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), as they have transformed the lives of those lucky enough to find sanctuary. You can be a part of making that dream a reality for elephants throughout South America. With your support of Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, together we can ensure that those elephants who have already served a life sentence performing, can soon find the peace, space and autonomy they need and deserve. We request the help of everyone (individuals, companies and animal welfare agencies alike) committed to working for a better quality of life for elephants to help raise the funds needed to move this pivotal first phase forward.

Please donate online through one of the links below:
Global Sanctuary for Elephants
Crowdfunding campaign for Elephant Sanctuary Brasil
ElephantVoices. If you donate through ElephantVoices, be certain to designate your funds for the Elephant Sanctuary Brazil Project on the dropdown menu.

Poor Semba passed away - we need to move forward NOW

Late elephant Semba.Over the past few weeks we’ve learned that Semba, a circus elephant who spent her life on the road across South America, and who we hoped would one day find freedom at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, passed away without warning. We don’t know any details about her cause of death, but we do know that her life will not be forgotten as we push forward with greater urgency to ensure that other captive elephants are offered a freedom Semba was denied.

Follow us on Facebook to hear more about the latest developments toward a compassionate future for elephants in Brazil and throughout South America. You'll find more information on:

- ElephantVoices
- Global Sanctuary for Elephants
- GSfE on facebook
- Elephant Sanctuary Brazil

For inquires or offers of assistance please contact:
in the U.S. – Scott Blais
in Brazil – Junia Machado

Through Junia Machado and other good elephant friends in Brazil, ElephantVoices is working hard for the best interest of elephants in this progressive country. Our main objectives are

To create awareness about elephant conservation and the welfare needs of captive elephants in Brazil, and to secure that a sanctuary for elephants is established as soon as possible.

To get such a sanctuary in Brazil off the ground is key to discussions about getting elephants suffering in circuses and bad zoos moved to a new home. Without having a good alternative in place for abused elephants, it is difficult to get the political process regarding elephant welfare moving forward. Junia and others are currently learning as much as possible about the captive elephants in Brazil - many kept under terrible conditions. ElephantVoices believe there are 25 elephants in Brazilian zoos, and 6 in circuses or chained on rural properties, but are still working to get these figures and details related to each elephant confirmed.

Consulation with The Elephant Sanctuary (TES), Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and individuals with sanctuary experience is obviously on the agenda to be able to bring plans for a sanctuary in Brazil forward, and all efforts are based on Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles (148.66 kB), developed by ElephantVoices. During PAWS Summit for Elephants in California in March 2012 ElephantVoices also met with Elephant Haven, an initiative meant to lead to a much needed elephant sanctuary in Europe (France).

Junia Machado's interest in elephants was triggered when she was eight years old, and when she saw Teresita in São Paulo Zoo some years ago, she decided to do her best for elephants and contacted ElephantVoices. Since then she has built up a network of people volunteering time and energy for elephants. Together with co-volunteer Ana Zinger in Rio de Janeiro and Ticiana Carneiro in São Paulo she has started blogging on ElephantVoices Brasil and also launched ElephantVoices Brasil on Facebook. In addition to news related to captive elephants in Brasil, and hand-picked news from around the world, Junia and her Brazilian team post material and news from ElephantVoices.org, all translated into portuguese.


Junia and Ana have met up with Petter and Joyce in Kenya and the Maasai Mara twice, and in March 2012 they joined at PAWS Summit for Elephants hosted by Oakland Zoo. Junia and Ana are also contributing work and data to ElephantVoices' conservation initiative for the Mara elephants, Elephant Partners.

Our main collaborators in Brazil, in addition to Junia Machado and Ana Zinger, are Maria Cristina Mullins, Teca Franco, Martha Toledo, Tiago Esteves Carvalhaes, Andrea Schmidt, Mayara Barbi and Carol Toledo. There are also other volunteers supporting their efforts on specific issues, like Mario Duarte, Luciana Dallari, Ticiana Carneiro, Felicia Mendonça, Sabrina Cury, José Licciardi and Marcos Marcello. Two agronomists, Cesar Frizzo and Vanessa Rizzi, are currently checking land-related issues and possibilities in connection with a future sanctuary.

ElephantVoices Brasil is also networking with a substantial number of people working for elephants in other countries in South-America, and aims to contribute ideas and the sound science-based knowledge of ElephantVoices wherever it can be of help. Get in touch with Junia if you want to join ElephantVoices Brasil in their efforts!

In early 2011 ElephantVoices launched "Elephant Partners", an elephant conservation project based in the Maasai Mara ecosystem. The goal of Elephant Partners is to develop a working model for citizens to monitor and protect elephants. The first half of 2011 will be a pilot period - while we continue to prepare and fundraise for the main phase of the project which will start later in the year.

The concept, put simply, is to connect individual people - guides, scouts, rangers, researchers, photographers, tourists, people of the Maasai Mara and all people who care - with the lives of individual elephants. Through use of the Internet and social and educational media our intention is to develop a community of people sharing their knowledge about the Mara elephants and working together to protect them. Harambee is a Kiswahili word meaning working together for a common purpose. It is our belief that this harambee spirit can engender the understanding, compassion, enthusiasm and collective custodianship needed for people and elephants to co-exist in a mutually beneficial way. We hope that it will also help to focus attention on, and bolster the important work of, the newly formed conservancies, since the future of elephants and other landscape species depends upon their commercial success.

We are building an online searchable database to store elephant identification photographs - so that people (Maasai Mara residents, visitors and friends worldwide) can get to know elephants by name. And we will be preparing an online database and blog where Mara friends can upload observations, photos and comments on Mara elephants (their behavior, movements, interactions, conflicts, threats, etc.) to share with other participants, the authorities and the general public. Through the use of mobile phones we will be developing an efficient way for people to collect and upload observations.


Matriarch f0001 seen in 1998 near Musiara swamp...


...and 12 years later on Mara Naboisho Conservancy 50 km to
the east. (Photos ©ElephantVoices)


Elephants are an iconic landscape species

Elephants attract global attention because they are both charismatic and threatened, and because they play an important role in the structure of ecosystems. Due to their immense size, sociality and intelligence, they also serve as important Ambassadors for other species. If we are able to save space for elephants, we will protect the other species, along with them.

Current ecological theory argues that elephants are best conserved through the management of linkages between landscapes, which can account for their large-scale movements. When elephants are confined by fences, by conflict with people or by threats from poachers they can have a negative impact on habitat and, consequently, on biodiversity. But when they are permitted to roam, their presence and foraging creates a mosaic of habitats that promotes biodiversity.

Being intelligent social animals, elephants learn where they are safe with extraordinary speed. They are vulnerable to ivory poaching and conflict with people, and respond to these threats from people with amplified aggression or by retreating into protected habitats for safety. As long as poaching and conflict remain threats to elephants, how can these crucial ecological linkages be maintained? This is where the Maasai Mara Conservancies and the behavior of people is so important.

People and elephants need a mutually beneficial relationship

To encourage elephants to use a wider area and, simultaneously, reduce human-elephant conflict, elephants need access to a network of places where they feel safe that are away from areas where elephant cause conflict. Such safe-havens can be provided by a mosaic of protected areas, conservancies, private and community land where, concurrently, people can benefit through tourism from the presence of elephants. Smart land use, goodwill, understanding and effort are needed to build a relationship between people and elephants that works to the advantage of both parties. Compassion is also a crucial ingredient in this relationship that is often missing in conservation projects (see new conservation movement www.compassionateconservation.org) and is key to the community Elephant Partners hopes to engender.

To achieve its vision Elephant Partners must serve and belong to everyone: The many conservancies (Mara, Mara North, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oiroua, Enonkishu, Motorogi, Olare Orok, Mara Naboisho, Ol Kinyei, see map), Kenya Wildlife Service, Maasai Mara National Reserve, members of the local community, the tourism sector and members of the general public. Elephant Partners will have a base in centrally located Mara Naboisho Conservancy, which is also home to the Koiyaki Guiding School, an important collaborator in this initiative.

Follow the Mara elephants - join Elephant Partners!

We are reliant upon on collaboration and participation to build an enthusiastic and committed team of Elephant Partners! Read updates here on ElephantVoices.org, on ElephantVoices on Facebook and on Elephant Partners on Facebook.

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