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): The following 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 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/Elephant Listening Project.
Peter 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 by Marie Read.
Katy 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/Elephant Listening Project.
Bill 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
- Description of Dzanga Bai
- Map of forest elephant study sites
- About the Elephant Listening Project’s thermal imaging research
- Read these Elephant Listening Project field reports from a 2010 expedition
How to Help