Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation

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Product Details

Millbrook Press (Tm)
Publish Date
10.8 X 9.0 X 0.3 inches | 1.1 pounds
Library Binding

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About the Author

Patricia Newman's books inspire young readers to seek connections to the real world. Her titles encourage readers to use their imaginations to solve real world problems and act on behalf of their communities. These books include Sibert Honor title Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem; Orbis Pictus Recommended Book Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean; Bank Street College Best Book Zoo Scientists to the Rescue; Booklist Editor's Choice Ebola: Fears and Facts; and Green Earth Book Award winner Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Patricia frequently speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.


"The chronological tale of the Elephant Listening Project, from precursory work in 1984 to its ongoing projects--all involving the sounds made by elephants. Although coyly headlining its introduction, chapters, and bibliography with musical terminology, the text is generally straightforward. Readers learn from the introduction ('overture') that scientists 'eavesdrop on endangered African forest elephants not only to figure out what they're saying but also to save them from extinction.' It goes on to discuss forest elephants as a keystone species. Next, there is a shift to the tales of Katy Payne and Andrea Turkalo, two dedicated researchers whose individual work with elephants and sounds led to the joint venture of the Elephant Listening Project in 1999, including working together at a rainforest research compound in the Central African Republic. Payne, Turkalo, and many of their team members present white, but local Bayaka people were invaluable in roles such as trackers, research assistants, and climbers to place the receivers. (Ground devices fare badly around curious elephants.) Currently, new conservationists, including some Bayaka, continue the work begun by the women. The text abounds with accessible--if sometimes prosaic--explanations of sound, spectrograms, technological advances, and more. Charts, graphs, and colorful photographs supplement the text. The subtitle is a bit misleading; only the fourth and fifth chapters discuss, minimally, 'how listening helps conservation.' Grim facts are balanced by hope and faith in the next generation. Fascinating for earnest conservationists."--Kirkus Reviews


"In forests in the Central African Republic, a symphony of sounds can be heard all around, but the one scientists are concerned with in this book is that of elephants. Telling the story of Katy Payne's work with elephant sounds and Cornell University's Elephant Listening Project, Newman gets into the technical aspects of studying elephant sounds and how the project quickly went from being an effort to learn more about pachyderms to one that could help their very survival. With gorgeous full-color photographs, well-defined maps, and insight into the latest technology, this book does an excellent job of transporting readers and providing a clear, multifaceted picture of African forest elephants. Several vignettes in the book feature QR codes that link to video recordings of the sounds that are being discussed, from an elephant hello to a goodbye. The work concludes by emphasizing the importance of conservation: 'The more you listen to wildlife, the more your mind opens up to new ideas about why the world is a place worth saving.' The book also includes a bit about the efforts of children to help elephants. VERDICT A great pick for middle school nonfiction collections."--School Library Journal


"In 1984, after a 15-year study that involved listening to sounds made by humpback whales, Katy Payne visited the elephants at the Portland, Oregon, zoo and felt a throbbing in the air akin to the sensation of hearing low pipe organ music. She suspected that the elephants were making sounds too deep for human ears to hear. Her experience led to the establishment, 15 years later, of Cornell University's Elephant Listening Project in the Central African Republic, where Payne and other scientists have been observing forest elephant families, studying their communication, and working to protect them ever since. Besides providing an overview of the project, along with information about the region's elephants and how they communicate, the text conveys a sense of urgency about the animals' survival in an era when poaching and forest destruction continue. Among Newman's cited sources are her interviews with Payne, forest elephant expert Andrea Turkalo, and others active in the project. The many illustrations include color photos of elephants, their habitat, and the researchers. An inviting introduction to biologists at work."--Booklist