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Elephant Audio-Recording Collar System

The low-frequency ‘rumble’ vocalizations of African elephants are difficult to detect and attribute to specific individuals. This creates a big problem for trying to study elephant vocal communication. In most cases, it is not possible for humans to detect enough rumbles to examine naturally occurring sequences of vocal behavior. We have found a way to overcome this problem, by developing a customized audio-recording collar system that picks up vocalizations from identified individual elephants. Our elephants cooperate with their keepers, so it is easy to attach and remove collars on study days. We put the collars on the elephants in the morning and the rest of the day is spent "eavesdropping" on their conversations. We also videotape the herd at the same time, so that we can see what social behaviors they engage in while producing each call.

First audio collar

Original Audio Recording Collars

Each collar recorded audio and sends the signal to a receiver station via a unique radio frequency. These collars were designed and maintained by David Rudolph and Brian Walters of Walt Disney World Ride and Show Engineering, modifying a design by William Langbauer Jr. and Steven Powell.

New Digital Collarsnew collar image2new collar image1

The new collars record audio and GPS data and save everything to a compact flash card, which can be removed each day. The collars are "elephant proof," and can handle going under water.

Click here to listen as the elephant collar records itself going underwater while an elephant was wearing it.

These collars were designed by Joseph Soltis of the Science Team and Brian Walters of Walt Disney World Ride and Show Engineering and built by ACUMEN® Instruments Corporation.


In our lab, we analyze animal vocalizations using a variety of bio-acoustics software including SIGNAL®, PRAAT® and Adobe Audition®.

 


Elephant team filming our herd of elephants. Click here to see descriptions of elephant social behaviors.

researcher out in the field

Our African elephant vocal communication research is conducted cooperatively with the Elephant Team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom®, without whose active help the work would not be possible. The Elephant Team is responsible for the day-to-day management and care of the elephants, and they attach the audio-recording collars to the elephants in the mornings and remove them in the evenings. They also participate in video data collection and provide needed information on the history and social dynamics of our herd.

Click to see a video of our elephants
wearing the audio-recording collars.

Elephant with audio-recording collar

To learn more about Elephant Communication please visit the links below:


History
Learn more about the history of elephant communication research at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Discoveries
African elephant vocalizations and behavior

Elephant Exercise
Using GPS to evaluate how elephants utilize their exhibit space

Read our publications
Examine our findings in detail

Meet our Elephant
Communication
Research Team
Something to Buzz About: Elephants and Bees
Learn how researchers are using bees to protect elephants and people in Northern Kenya

 

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Updated: July 26, 2012