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.” Then I read your critique of War Elephants and my role in it and realized how little you understand of who I am and what I stand for. Gay, you and I hold many of the same perspectives on elephants, we have published together, and I admire and respect you for the work you have accomplished. If you had concerns, why didn't you get in touch so that, as colleagues, we could try to find common ground? Why torpedo an elephant spokesperson if you have the best interests of these incredible animals at heart?

We will not be able to save all of Africa’s elephants from the onslaught of poaching and conflict, but by using our collective intelligence and experience we can work together toward a kinder future for those who live in places where they have a chance to survive. I choose to be part of a solution, to put my long experience in Africa and with elephants to work. While I would be so glad if elephants everywhere could be left in peace, doing what they like, in the real world we need to find ways for elephants to survive despite human intervention and encroachment. To habituate elephants to friendly visitors is one way to do that - and done with knowledge and respect, elephants are intelligent enough to adapt and thrive as we have seen in Amboseli, the Mara, Samburu and elsewhere. Elephants learn quickly and they easily can discriminate between their human friends and foes.

Gorongosa National Park and its elephants had been given up for lost, but thanks to the Mozambican Government and the Gorongosa Restoration Project, these elephants have a chance. Their future, though, depends on tourism revenue and I was invited to Gorongosa to assess the elephants and to begin a process of habituation, so that visitors can have peaceful encounters with them. This work would have happened with or without cameras present, but National Geographic expressed an interest in documenting the habituation process and the Gorongosa Restoration Project felt a film would help to highlight the work they are doing and the particular plight of these (and many other) elephants who have survived war.

I approached the Gorongosa elephants as I would any elephants: slowly, and when I saw signs that they were concerned I turned off the engine and sat quietly. The concept is to gain trust by respecting their boundaries. Sometimes I talk to elephants; I always have done and I make no apologies for it. My conscience is totally clear regarding my strategy and my actions. I would never do anything to harm or harass elephants. There were no guns in the car; the incident you mention occurred on the main road on a game drive, coincidently with a ranger in the car, long after the film crew and I had departed. The incident only serves to highlight the necessity of gaining, in a systematic way, these elephants' trust.

Other than charges by some individuals, my experience was that the Gorongosa elephants were, surprisingly, calm. Editing weeks, indeed months, of footage and compressing it to 50 minutes gives the impression of relentless agonistic interaction. The use of long lenses, the pace, the timing, the selection of scenes, their repetition, the script and the music all interact to exaggerate the drama. But that is TV - film production and editing is not my expertise.

I played calls to the elephants for a reason. I have been asked if there is a way to encourage the elephants to use parts of the park that they abandoned years ago. The elephants are needed to open up habitat and kick-start the grazing succession for other species. Our hope is that if elephants hear others on the distant bank of the river they may feel that it is safe to venture there themselves. The calls I played to them were the sounds of normal elephants doing normal elephant things - in this case adults threatening a lion and calling for recruits. I played those particular calls for a purpose - because I thought they were most likely to attract a family group. The elephants responded with excitement and curiosity, not with fear and agitation. And again: I would have used this technique whether a film crew was there or not.

ElephantVoices will be returning to Gorongosa later this year, and in the years to come, and we will use all of these techniques and others to try to secure a future for these elephants. War Elephants gives a tiny window into who these elephants are and through a monitoring and research program we will learn much more. We will continue to do all we can to make sure that there are other places in the wild for elephants, and to work toward an end to the ongoing poaching-crisis. It can be hard going, and full of heart-break, but I believe if we all work together there will still be free-ranging elephants for my great-great grandchildren to experience. At a time when elephants are under tremendous threat, Gorongosa is a place of hope. It is also a place where a team of dedicated conservationists, scientists and filmmakers are coming together to give this small population of elephants a chance. We are proud to be among them.

Joyce Poole signature

Joyce H. Poole, PhD
Co-Director, ElephantVoices

The National Geographic documentary War Elephants is due to air in the US on National Geographic Wild on Sunday, 22 April 2012, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. A Nat Geo Live! premiere screening took place in Washington DC on 14 March, also announced on National Geographics Explorers Journal. The film led to several other media activities, such as an interview on Animal House and a live conversation on National Geographic Facebook page on 13 March, embedded at the bottom of this page. You can see a clip from the film through this link - with Joyce "Talking To The Elephants".

A few days after the screening on 14th March the documentary won a prestigous award in Sun Valley Film Festival - ONE IN A MILLION. This award honors feature length stories made for under a million dollars. War Elephants furthermore received merits for cinematography and wildlife behavior at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Montana. On 20th April Bob Poole will talk about War Elephants on ABC Nightline. You may want to visit The Independent's Traveller's Guide: Mozambique, to read more about this fascinating country.

About War Elephants on National Geographic's website:
"In Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, elephants are in crisis: Years of civil war and ivory poaching have left them frightened and hostile toward humans. In a new National Geographic Television film, the world’s foremost elephant researcher Dr. Joyce Poole, in a documentary by her brother, cameraman Bob Poole, works to build trust and retrain the animals away from their violent behavior."

Below you will find when War Elephants will be shown in different countries. The following countries are included under "Nat Geo Wild HD Eur Intl Feed", air time 3 June at 15.00: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greece, Georgia, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kosavo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sub-Saharan Africa (Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe), Sweden, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan

War Elephants air time
Air time War Elephants - National Geographic Wild

People from 55 countries joined Joyce and Meigan Goodyer Henry in a live conversation on National Geographic Facebooks page, Tuesday, March 13, 2012.

People could ask questions during the conversation - or post them on a National Geographic blog post.

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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

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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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 main study group for several years, so we are particularly fond of this wonderful and engaging family.

You can watch a celebration of the life and legacy of Echo, who was born in 1945 and died in 2009, on PBS' Nature on Sunday, October 17, at 8 p.m. (check local listings). BBC's Natural World followed this very special elephant for the last 20 years of her life - you can see how Sir David Attenborough introduced BBC's version ("Echo an Unforgettable Elephant") .

In this final chapter of Echo's story, Nature looks back at her remarkable journey, and takes a look ahead at the future awaiting her family. This poignant portrait pieces together watershed moments in Echo's life and examines the plight of her fragmented family in the wake of her death. You can find some interviews, video clips and photos related to the BBC version here.

You can view some more photos of Echo, 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.

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Front  page  letter Mr. ChadengaA week ago we posted Zimbabwe captures elephants and creates an angry storm - and along with many others we keep hoping that Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority will cancel its plans for further captures in Hwange National Park and the shipment of these animals to North Korea. Its been amazing to see how many people have written to us to express their disgust with the authority's plans - especially moving have been some of the e-mails from Zimbabweans.

On 21st May Joyce did an interview with SW Radio Africa about the captured elephants. You can listen to the interview below - after buffering move to 23.15 to go directly to where the interview starts.

For those of you who have not seen the open letter (180.02 kB) that more than 50 organisations from around the world signed on to, click on the letter to the right. Pass it on to as many people as you will!

If you want to sign a petition you can do so here.

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}

You should see this very interesting segment on CBS' 60 Minutes - about the fascinating work of our colleagues Andrea Turkalo and researchers in the Elephant Listening Project. One day we hope to be able to compare the language of forest elephants and savannah elephants.

If you want to see our "dictionary" and listen to our "dictionary" and listen to savannah elephants - visit our online databases here.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

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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Radio interview Zimbabwe wildlife deal

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Joyce Poole on Talking Animals

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The Elephant Listening Project in 60 Minutes

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National Geographic Channel: Revenge of the elephants

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