About The Elephant Listening Project
In some ways, the Elephant Listening Project began at the Portland Zoo in 1984, when Katy Payne felt (more than heard) the low-frequency rumbling communication of two Asian elephants, a male and female, who were standing on opposite sides of a concrete wall. In the following years, Katy and a group of dedicated colleagues demonstrated that elephants often communicate using sounds below the threshold of human hearing, that these sounds carry over vast distances, and that elephants use vocal communication to bind their complex family social system together. Katy describes the fascinating trajectory of her interest in elephant communication in the delightful book Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants.
One of Katy’s insights was that we could perhaps ‘eavesdrop’ on the elephant’s lives by recording their vocal exchanges and learning to identify the contexts in which certain calls are used. In 1999, Katy and several colleagues founded ELP to further the use of acoustic methods to study and aid in the conservation of forest elephants in Central Africa.
© Melissa Groo
The Elephant Listening Project is a not-for-profit organization associated with the Bioacoustics Research Program (BRP) at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. Since its inception, ELP has depended on financial support from a diversity of governmental and non-governmental organizations, private donors and BRP.
Some of the earliest research was focused on characterizing low-frequency communication in savannah elephants, but increasingly the focus has been on forest elephants in the rainforests of Central Africa.