Thermal image video of forest elephant infant at night in Dzanga Bai, intrigued by red river hogs

Pigs Go Bump in the Night
In the pitch black of night an infant male tests his courage against a sounder of red river forest hogs (Potamochoerus porcus) rooting for seeds in the piles of elephant dung that dot the forest clearing.

Thermal image video of forest elephant (Valentine) being born

The Valentine Saga
Valentine was born on 15 February 2012. This was only the second time that a forest elephant birth has been observed. This thermal video, captured at 8:30 pm, shows 4-hour old Valentine stuck in a hole. His older brother and sister eventually help him climb out. Three hours later the family is near the edge of the forest and Valentine's mother is hot (bright yellow) from being chased around by a young male. But Valentine's older siblings make sure he is watched over when mom leaves him alone at the base of a tree.

Thermal image video showing close up of forest elephant, especially ear venation

Amazing Thermal Elephants
Not only are these thermal images beautiful, but the detail of venation in the ears and the differences in skin temperature among individuals is striking. Notice the areas where blood vessels are near the skin surface to facilitate heat exchange (called "thermal windows"). These show up as much warmer patches of color on the body surface (areas that are brighter yellow).


Thermal imaging (also called "thermography") has given us a new window into the social behavior of forest elephants. Of course the potential of scientific insights motivated our research (see links in sidebar), but the incredible beauty of the images was a treat in itself!

Thermal image of juvenile forest elephant

©Elephant Listening Project

A thermal image of a juvenile forest elephant drinking minerals
dissolved in water at the Dzanga Bai, Central African Republic.
Different color palettes can be selected for the images (this one
used "rainbow") while the videos and the image at right were
captured using the "iron" color palette.

The color scale in the image at left ranges from 26-32 degrees Centigrade (dark blue to dark pink), graphically painting the temperature of the juvenile elephant's skin at 8:15 pm. The end of his trunk is cool because it has been in a pool of water to drink from the mineral spring. The outer edges of his ears are the coolest part of his body. Notice that even the warmest parts of his skin are several degrees cooler than the normal core body temperature of 37 degrees. This makes sense because the skin is used for thermoregulation and is usually cooler than the body core (touch your own skin and see that it tends to feel cool).

Notice the circular spot on this animal's rump. This might be a puncture wound that is slightly infected (inflammation around the puncture appearing as a dark pink ring).