Category Archives: Events

Greetings – we’re in California 17 to 29 October

We hope to see some of you during our lecture and fundraising tour in California from 17 to 29 October. We’re having events in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and in San Francisco. Oakland Zoo is hosting a reception and lecture on 28 October.

You will find all relevant information about the tour, with links to invitations/flyers, here.

Best wishes, Petter

Playing elephant sounds for elephants – ElephantVoices visit at PAWS 15 November

Some of you have seen the responses (online or in person) of Ruby, Maggie, Mara and Lulu to some elephant sounds that I played to them when Petter and I visited Ark2000 on 15 November for a joint fundraiser for PAWS and ElephantVoices. Their responses were so strong that some people have been concerned that the sounds were upsetting to the girls. I want to take a moment here to address that concern.

Over the years we have been approached a few times by people who have wanted to use some of the calls in our collection as enrichment for elephants in zoos. I have been reluctant to allow our recordings for this purpose because I have felt that people who didn’t understand the calls or the responses of the elephants to them could misuse them. I also feel that elephants are smart enough to figure out pretty quickly that the sounds are just a ploy – that there aren’t any real elephant out there to be companions – and then playing them is just unkind.

The situation at PAWS was different because I was there, able to monitor the elephants, along with Pat, Ed, and all the others who work with these individuals and know their behavior and responses so well. Also, having watched these elephants in the past, I knew I was dealing with individuals who were relaxed and well integrated and, in particular, were elephants who had one another’s companionship and support to rely on.

Petter and I played several sounds to the PAWS elephants. The first was a musth rumble (made only by sexually active males), followed by a mating pandemonium (the excitement that follows a mating), and then a sequence in which a calf screamed (because a lion jumped on it) which was immediately followed by the angry sounds of mother elephants threatening the lion and calling in members of their family for support.

Joyce playing sounds for PAWS elephantsSo how did Ruby, Maggie, Mara and Lulu respond to these sounds?

When the musth rumble was played:
Maggie and Mara were near fence and were very relaxed until the sound is played. They lifted their heads, Mara folded her ears (a threat) and they first ran away (they were taken by surprise by a sound nearby that they didn’t expect) and then Mara turned toward the speaker. She whirled and trumpeted with excitement (Not with fear) and they all ran together, spun around, trumpeted and rumbled (throaty and modulated sound – typical excited rumble) and then some of the elephants urinated. This is typical of a high level excited response of females to the sound of a musth rumble in the wild. The manner in which they spun around together showed how bonded they are.

When the mating pandemonium was played:
The four elephants were some distance off. They listened to the sounds of many elephants and appeared not sure what to do. They started to walk away, then stopped. Ruby was in the front and was contemplating what to do. She turned her head from one side to the other trying to localize/ understand the source of the sound. She appeared unsure of what to do.

When the scream and antipredator rumbles were played:
As soon as the calf screamed, Ruby paid attention. As the mother elephants began their loud roaring rumbles, Ruby came forward and then charged uphill toward the sound and stood tall (aggressive) near the fence. Then she ran back to the other elephants and backed into them. They trumpeted and bunch in a defensive formation. Ruby charged uphill again and gave a trumpet blast – as might be given toward a predator. All the elephants moved away in a bunched formation. They held their heads high with their trunks curled under in an apprehensive posture.

The elephants heard a calf in danger and the sounds of other elephants threatening a predator and calling for help. They responded just as they would in the wild – with alarm and then with anger. Ruby showed real leadership – she acted like a mother and a matriarch in the situation and came to the defence of the group – exactly the kind of response that one would expect to see in the wild.

While it may be rare for captive elephants to react so strongly to a stimulus, the responses were very typical of wild elephants and we were able to observe a range of reactions from high-level social excitement to fierce defence. In the wild when we do playback experiments we hope for reactions like this. I have many videos of elephants running from sounds, bunching, charging and some in which they do not respond with more than listening behavior. Playbacks are a tool for learning what these sounds mean.

The elephants’ responses showed just what a strong leader Ruby (from LA Zoo) has becomes and how tight the bonds are between the four elephants. PAWS can be extremely proud of the work they have done to facilitate the development of this family unit.

Trumpets, Joyce

The future of Billy in LA Zoo at stake – busy times during lecture and fundraising tour in California

After almost two weeks on the road with several events and fundraisers behind us, we depart from California and Los Angeles this afternoon. We’re busy packing so we don’t have time for more than a very short summary of our trip.

The tour started with a cooking party and two other events in San Francisco, continued with a joint event at PAWS in San Andreas. You can see a video from this event here, including footage of Joyce’s talk and of the responses of Ruby, Maggie, Mara and Lulu to some elephant sounds that we played to them. Their response was so strong that some people were worried that the sounds were upsetting to the girls. While it may be rare for captive elephants to react so strongly to a stimulus, the responses were very typical of wild elephants and we were able to observe a range of responses from high social excitement to fierce defence. Their response showed just what a strong leader Ruby has becomes and how tight the bonds are between the four elephants. PAWS can be extremely proud of the work they have done to facilitate the development of this family unit.
We finally had an event and fundraiser in the home of a good friend in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, on Sunday 16th November.

Georja Umano, Petter and Joyce

The last three days of our visit ended up being much more hectic than planned, mainly because of meetings and press briefings related to our involvement in discussions regarding the future of elephants, including Billy, at LA Zoo. On Tuesday Joyce participated in a press conference arranged by councilman Tony Cardenas of Los Angeles County Council. NBC Los Angeles, CBS Los Angeles and, laist and Fox LA are among the media that have covered the case. The vote was planned for Wednesday, but after 5 intense hours on the floor it has been delayed until the first week of December. (Article in LA Times here) We strongly hope the LA County Council will decide to close the exhibit and send Billy to a sanctuary. An urban zoo cannot offer the space necessary for a such a large, active, social, and intelligent animal as the elephant.
Petter, Joyce and Councilman Tony Cardenas visiting LA Zoo.

We’re extremely grateful for all the support and help we have received during our trip – it’s been exhausting but has also given us lots of new energy. We have made new friends, even some through WildlifeDirect, and hopefully created more compassion for elephants among people that we have met on our way. We look forward to keeping in touch with all of you caring for elephants.


Petter and Joyce

On the way to the US to meet elephant friends AND elephants!

Dear WD Visitor!

For those of you living in the US: Sandip Roy Chowdhury will be talking with Joyce Poole on “New America Now: Dispatches from the New Majority,” which airs Friday Nov 14th at 1:00 p.m. and repeats Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on KALW, 91.7 FM.

You can hear an interview with Joyce on AnimalVoices, an alternative radio in Vancouver, here. The interview with Karl Losken was aired on 31st October.

At 4 am this morning we were awoken by two alarm clocks – not wanting to risk that one would let us down. A couple of hours later we departed for our two week event and fundraising tour in California. We’re looking forward to see friends, elephant supporters and even elephants (at PAWS, where we have a joint event on Saturday 15th Nov.), while at the same time experience the excitement of an historical election. With strong roots in Kenya (and plenty of other good reasons, too) no-one should be surprised that we are happy that Barack Obama will soon be the new President of the United States of America. We are among those convinced that he will strengthen America in a way that will be good for everyone. Barack is Kiswahili for blessing and he is indeed a blessing.

Waiting at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam for our next flight, we watched another BBC news piece describing the impact of increased ivory poaching on the world’s biggest land mammal – and expressing fears that the recent ivory auctions, sanctioned by CITES, will stimulate that growing threat. More and more elephants are succumbing to poaching fueled by the ivory trade and the press needs to bring this to the world’s attention.

Despite difficult times for the financial markets around the world, and for most of us as a consequence, we are hopeful that the people we meet during our California tour will continue to support our elephant conservation work. In the coming year we will be devoting a large portion of our time to our elephant conservation project in Sri Lanka.

We are also very grateful for any contributions towards our work from WildlifeDirect visitors!

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce

Getting close to ElephantVoices’ California fundraiser – we hope to see some of you!

Link to event overview ElephantVoices in California Nov. 2008Female elephant in Minneriya, Sri Lanka, photo Joyce Poole.

As many of you have seen and know, Joyce and I will be visiting California from 6 to 20 November. Together with friends, supporters and collaborators we’re holding several fundraisers, as you will see from the linked event overview. The timing is, admittedly, a bit more exciting than we planned – considering the global financial unrest. The election of a new US President a couple of days before our arrival may trigger some new optimism, though, which could be good for all of us, including elephants…

We lean towards a statement from one of our SF friends: At this stage it is much better to think about elephants than finances! And what we do know is that elephants need us more than ever – and even more so because of what may follow this economical downturn.

If you would like more information about our work don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re currently doing a major revision of, and hope to launch the new version during December after some unfortunate delays. During the next few months the site will be expanded in ways that we believe many of you will like and find interesting, especially if you enjoy the voices of elephants. It will also include interactive information about our new elephant conservation project in Sri Lanka. Another of our goals is to improve how you can access and subscribe to our news. Please be patient while we are preparing the changes!

We hope you will follow the work of ElephantVoices in the years to come – it would be great to see you in person during our upcoming fundraising tour!

Best wishes, Petter

ElephantVoices fundraiser in California 7 to 20 November

Despite the current turmoil in the world’s financial markets we continue to prepare for our fund raising tour to the Bay Area and Los Angeles, California between 7-20th November. Elephants have amazing senses, but I doubt that they have picked up on the quaking stock markets 🙂 Arriving in San Francisco two days after the election of a new American President contributes towards the anticipation associated with this trip – we are keeping fingers crossed that the result brings about some new found optimism!

Thanks to the incredibly hard work of good friends and supporters in California, there are going to be several events in the San Francisco area and Los Angeles. There are smaller, more intimate events and some for a larger crowd – the gathering at the Bollyhood Cafe in San Francisco on 13 November and the luncheon at The Elephant Habitat at ARK 2000 (PAWS, San Andreas) on 15 November should be very lively! An informal talk, images and elephant vocals will be among the ingredients of the events.

Raising funds for our Minneriya-Kaudulla Elephant Project will be a main focus of our California 7 to 20 November tour. Come and learn more about it!

We would love to see anyone interested in our work at one or more of these quite different events – you can take a look at what’s on offer by reading or downloading a .pdf file with an overview of San Francisco events and contact names here. We have two events in Los Angeles, on 16 and 19 November, contact us on info(at) for more info.

We look forward to seeing you!

ElephantVoices on WCN expo in San Francisco 4 October – and in National Geographic meetings this week

Some of you may be able to visit our table at the World Conservation Networks 2008 wildlife conservation expo Saturday, October 4.  The expo takes place at Mission Bay Conference Center, San Francisco. You’ll find a flyer about the event here. Welcome!

Joyce left this morning for Washington DC, where she Wednesday is going to participate in a panel discussion for National Geographic staff about elephant management and their future.  She will also attend a public lecture on Tuesday – where old friend and colleague Iain Douglas-Hamilton and others will present the story in the September issue of National Geographic Magazine about the Samburu elephants and discuss future prospects of Africa’s majestic elephants. Joyce leaves on the coming Sunday for Sri Lanka, to kick-start our new Minneriya-Kaudulla Elephant Project together with our local partner Manori Gunawardena.