NPR’s Forest Elephant Stories: Additional Sound and Video

May 7, 2014

Andrea Turkalo has been studying the rare African forest elephant in the Central African Republic since 1990. Last year, she had to flee her longtime study site, Dzanga Bai, as armed rebels and eventually poachers moved into the area, and she has yet to return. A pair of National Public Radio stories aired her story during Morning Edition on May 8 and on May 9, 2014. We’ve gathered the following materials to help immerse you in the sights and sounds of this remarkable clearing in the jungle.

Listen to the Original Stories

In 2002, the NPR show Radio Expeditions visited Turkalo at her Dzanga Bai study site. Here are the original recordings.

Part 1: Alex Chadwick journeys across the Central African Republic to meet Andrea Turkalo (6 min)
Part 2: From her observation platform in Dzanga Bai, Andrea Turkalo describes forest elephants and the threats they face (8 min)
Part 3: Andrea Turkalo describes the dangers and hardships of working in remote Africa (9 min)

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library is the repository for the National Public Radio–National Geographic Society Radio Expeditions Sound Collection. You can hear much more of their recordings and interviews from Dzanga Bai in our archive.

Sounds From Dzanga Bai

Immerse yourself in life at Dzanga Bai with these ambient sound recordings, by Radio Expeditions sound recordist Bill McQuay (now a sound engineer at the Cornell Lab).

A noisy confrontation between two elephants (1 min)
Dzanga Bai in the daytime: Among the sounds you hear are Gray Parrots, Blue-headed Wood-Doves or Tambourine Doves, and Woodland Kingfisher. (Identifications by David Moyer) (2 min)
Dzanga Bai at night, with roaring elephants (1 min)

Video of Elephants by Day and Night

Elephants by day (30 sec): This short video puts you on Andrea Turkalo’s viewing platform to experience the sights and sounds of a clearing full of elephants.
Seeing details in the dark (1:30): Forest elephants are active at night, but no one knows much about what they get up to—so Cornell Lab scientist Peter Wrege brought along a thermal imaging camera to Dzanga Bai. Its incredible detail allows Wrege to identify unique vein patterns in an elephant’s ears and see aspects of thermoregulation—notice that the larger elephant’s ears are bright as she tries to shed excess body heat in the steamy night. Beside her, her much smaller calf’s ears are dark and cool.
Elephant calf investigates pigs in the dark (1 min): This scene played out in complete darkness. Without the camera the scientists would have been unable to see how this elephant calf approached a group of red river pigs. Wrege says that thermal imaging will allow scientists to understand how elephants interact when scent, hearing, and touch are all they have to go on.

About the Scientists

  • Andrea TurkaloAndrea Turkalo is a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society. She has been studying forest elephants at Dzanga Bai since 1990. She works closely with the Elephant Listening Project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Photo courtesy Peter Wrege/ELP.
  • Peter WregePeter Wrege leads the Elephant Listening Project at the Cornell Lab. He has spent three decades studying animal behavior in the tropics and has spent much of his time in Kenya and East Africa. Photo courtesy Peter Wrege/ELP.
  • Katy PayneKaty Payne is a researcher and naturalist interested in animal sounds. She began her career studying the sounds of humpback whales. She became interested in elephant communication and founded the Elephant Listening Project in 1999, retiring in 2006. Photo (1990) courtesy Peter Wrege/ELP.
  • Bill McQuay & Alex ChadwickBill McQuay (left, with Alex Chadwick, at the Dzanga Bai platform) is the supervising audio engineer for the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library. He was a sound engineer and technical director for NPR for 15 years. Photo (2002) by Carolyn Jensen-Chadwick.

More About Forest Elephants

How to Help

Please donate to the Elephant Listening Project or adopt a forest elephant to help this important research and conservation continue


  • Sonya

    Thank you for the sound garden. Wonderful music for meditation. The original symphonies. Easy to tell what sound our modern trumpets are emulating. I’m awed and humbled by your love and work.

  • Nan Mueller

    For years I have been following the work of Dame Daphne Sheldrick, founder of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, to rescue and save elephant calves and rhinos left orphaned because their mothers were slaughtered by poachers for their ivory tusks and rhino horns. This preserve provides a safe haven for the elephants and rhinos to rehabilitate and eventually be returned to the wild. I also foster a beautiful young female elephant named Kilabasi, who is named for the area where she was rescued. The foster program, among other programs, helps to raise much needed funding to keep the elephant and rhino conservation project going. For more information go to

    As for your story on Andrea Turkalo, the work being done on this project is timely and important because the sounds and video being captured here may one day be the only connection we have to these wonderful creatures.

    According to an article posted on The World Wildlife Fund’s web site, “Fewer than half a million elephants remain in Africa’s savannas and jungles–a 95% plunge over the last 50 years. Recently, the killing has surged: Poachers are slaughtering on average one elephant every 15 minutes, and some populations are now on a path to extinction.”

    Your story will help bring attention to the global efforts taking place to put an end to the ivory trade and focus on conservation efforts to protect African wildlife.

NPR’s Forest Elephant Stories: Additional Sound and Video