60-Second Science

Forest Elephants Get a Fair Hearing

The Elephant Listening Project, associated with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is recording thousands of hours of forest elephant vocalizations. Steve Mirsky reports


Forest elephants are a unique, third species of the majestic mammals, distinct from their larger African cousins and from the Asian elephant. Understanding these animals within the context of their complex social system requires examining their vocalizations. Which is the aim of the Elephant Listening Project, associated with Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, renowned for its library of animal sounds.

On April 10, project director Peter Wrege visited New York City and briefed reporters about the project and some of its early findings. For one thing, the females do most of the talking:

“We’ve found from our studies that males actually don’t vocalize as much—much, much less than females. So a lot of what we’re recording actually are females talking to their babies and talking to each other. And males are sort of hanging out there and being quiet.”

For more info, visit And hear more highlights from the press conference in an upcoming Science Talk podcast.

—Steve Mirsky

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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