elephant partners

  • Elephant Partners - Maasai Mara

    In early 2011, ElephantVoices launched "Elephant Partners", an elephant conservation project in the Maasai Mara ecosystem. The goal of Elephant Partners is to develop a working model for citizens to monitor and protect elephants. This initiative is made possible through support from the generous organisations and inviduals listed at the bottom of this page.

    The concept is to connect individual people - guides, scouts, researchers, photographers, tourists, people of the Maasai Mara and all those who care - with the lives of individual elephants. Through use of the Internet and social and educational media, our intention is to develop a community sharing knowledge of the Mara elephants and working together to protect them. This page, via the links on top of it, is a gateway to the unique online databases, which are core tools for this conservation initiative.

    Elephants are important for the survival of the Mara

    As an iconic landscape species elephants are important to the survival of the Mara. They play a key role in the ecosystem and, through tourism, in the local economy. Their great size, sociality, intelligence and charisma make them important Ambassadors for other threatened species. Yet, the Mara elephants are currently threatened by habitat loss, human-elephant conflict and ivory poaching. Many elephants are killed each year and an even greater number are wounded by spears, arrows and snares. By engaging people in the monitoring and protection of elephants, we hope to engender enthusiasm for the collective custodianship necessary to protect elephants and the ecosystem.

    The data collected will include group size, location and composition and will determine the habitat use and migration routes used by individual elephants. These data will help wildlife managers protect elephants and to determine the corridors vital to their survival. Elephant Partners will make these and other baseline data available to the public. Furthermore, the project will help focus attention on the newly formed conservancies and bolster their important work; the future of elephants and other landscape species depends upon their commercial success.

    Follow and support the Mara elephants

    One of the main components of this initiative is a fully searchable online database for storing information, photographs and identifying features of each elephant - the Mara Elephant Who's Who - so that anyone can get to know them as individuals. This database will be populated by ElephantVoices, with photo contributions from those of you residing in or visiting the Maasai Mara. You will find an article about The Mara Elephant Who's Who and how to identify elephants published on National Geographic's A Voice for Elephants 16 August 2013, with photos and educational video.

    Via the online interface of a second Mara Elephant Whereabouts database people can upload their own observations, photos and comments on the Mara elephants (their behavior, movements, interactions, conflicts, threats, etc.). This database is related to an advanced mapping functionality showing selected location data. You have to be a registered user to access the above databases - they are both password-protected.

    Furthermore, in November 2011 we launched the Mara EleApp, which has later been updated. This app, for Android-based phones, provides an efficient way for people to collect and upload observations directly to the above mentioned Observations database.

    To achieve its vision Elephant Partners must serve and belong to everyone: The many conservancies (Mara Triangle, Mara North, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oiroua, Enonkishu, Motorogi, Olare Orok, Mara Naboisho, Ol Kinyei, Olderikesi, see map), Kenya Wildlife Service, Maasai Mara National Reserve, members of the local community, the tourism sector and members of the general public. Kenya Wildlife Service, the Mara Elephant Project and the Koiyaki Guiding School are just a few of many important collaborators in this initiative.

    The below video is from a presentation of the Elephant Partners initiative by ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole,
    at National Geographic' Explorers Symposium in June 2012.
    Thank you!
    We are grateful to the organizations and individuals below for making this project possible.
    You will find a full overview over monetary and in-kind supporters, and other contributors and collaborators, on the Acknowledgements page.

  • History

    Joyce Poole has studied the social behavior and communication of African elephants for over thirty five years and has dedicated her life to their conservation and welfare. The inspiration for her life's work came from a childhood in Africa, a father with a love of nature, and a lecture by Jane Goodall that she attended at the age of eleven. She began her work with elephants at the age of 19 in Amboseli National Park studying there under mentor, and Director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, Cynthia Moss.

    Joyce Poole with new Nagra tape recorder in 1987. (Copyright: ElephantVoices)Decades-long study of elephant behavior and communication

    In Amboseli, Joyce's early work focused on the social and reproductive behavior of male elephants. Discovering in 1978 that African male elephants experience a heightened sexual and aggressive period known as musth,led her to carry out detailed study of their socio-sexual behavior. In the mid 1980s, she extended her study to elephant communication, first concentrating on the signaling patterns between males in musth. The very low frequency sounds produced by male elephants led to work with Katy Payne, and the finding that, like their Asian cousins, African elephants use sounds below the level of human hearing. Together, Joyce and Katy turned their attention to the role of infrasound in elephant long-distance communication.

    In the late 1990s, Joyce began to document the vocal repertoire and body language of African elephants discovering. She found, in the process, that elephants are capable of vocal imitation.

    Scientific knowledge used to protect elephants and their welfare

    Joyce's elephant research has not been confined to the realm of academic journals. Data from surveys in 1989 showing that the killing of elephants for ivory was destroying the social fabric of elephant society were used in the campaign which successfully banned the international trade in ivory. Understanding of male elephant behavior, and the importance of social learning and role models in elephant society has been key to the adoption of more humane elephant management practices.

    Between 1990-1994, she had the opportunity to head the Elephant Program of Kenya Wildlife Service, working with and training many of the men and women who hold key elephant management positions in Kenya today.

    ElephantVoices founded in 2002

    Joyce Poole and Petter Granli in Amboseli Elephant Research Camp. (©ElephantVoices) During the latter half of the 1990s, Joyce returned to her long-term study of elephants believing that she could best influence their future by sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm. Since 2000, she has continued her elephant communication work with Norwegian husband and colleague, Petter Granli, and together they founded ElephantVoices (initially Savanna Elephant Vocalization Project) in 2002. Petter's creativity, technical skills and his background in marketing and communication influenced their decision to share the voices of elephants via the internet in the belief that better understanding could help change public perception and improve the survival prospects for elephants. ElephantVoices' first website was launched in 2002. In September 2008, ElephantVoices was registered as a non-profit charitable organisation in California.

    A second generation ElephantVoices' website launched in 2009, with its associated databases of elephant sounds and gestures, was the fruit of an idea planted almost a decade before and the result of many years of work in association with numerous dedicated colleagues and friends mentioned on our Collaborators page. In October 2013, working with long-term Kenyan collaborators from Verviant a re-designed ElephantVoices.org was launched.

    ElephantVoices has since its inception been working worldwide with issues, policies and cases related to elephant welfare, and initiated in 2008 The Elephant Charter. In late 2011, the document Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles was launched, partly related to ElephantVoices efforts toward the establishment of an elephant sanctuary in Brazil.

    Moving on to Maasai Mara, Kenya, and Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

    In 2010, ElephantVoices initiated a new conservation project in the world renown Maasai Mara, Kenya, part of the key Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Known as Elephant Partners, the project on this for both Kenya and Tanzania vital elephant population is based on citizen science and the use of mobile phone and web technology. The following year Joyce and Petter began a study of the elephants in amazing Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. Both projects are on-going.