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BBC Radio 4 - 92 to 94 FM and 198 Long WaveListen to Digital Radio, Digital TV and OnlineListen on Digital Radio, Digital TV and Online

Science
A LIFE WITH ELEPHANTS
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Tuesday 29 April 2003, 11.00-11.30am

A mixture of actuality encounters with elephants and the heart-felt writings of Katy Payne brings to life both what is extraordinary about elephants and what has been extraordinary about the life of one of the world's leading elephant scientists.

African Elephant
An African Elephant in the Masai Mara, Kenya

In a way, it all started when Katy Payne was 13 years old. She was singing Bach's Matthew Passion in her local church in Ithaca, New York state. As the thundering bass notes on the organ descended in a scale she became aware of a great shuddering in the air - notes that she could feel but could not hear.

Thirty years later, spending time amongst the elephants in Oregon zoo as a biologist trying to fathom out how extended elephant families could function as a single unit even though they could not see one another across the vast horizons of the African Savannah, she became aware of the same sensation - sounds that she could feel but could not hear. This was her discovery - that elephants communicated over great distances using sounds beneath the human hearing range. And it was a discovery that not only revolutionised our understanding of elephant society, but that also set her off on a journey into the lives and even into the minds of these amazing creatures.
Katy Payne © Melissa Groo
Katy Payne © Melissa Groo

She worked with Joyce Poole in Kenya, spent years in Zimbabwe, and now runs the Elephant Listening Project studying the remarkable forest elephants in Central African Republic. These years have been full of extraordinary animal and human encounters. Katy has questioned the whole ethos of scientific study, conservation, and our attitudes towards the natural world.

A Life with Elephants mixes Katy's heart-felt writings about her life spent studying elephants with actuality recordings of elephant encounters made with her in Botswana. This mixture of the immediacy of real encounters with the reflection and insight of her writing, brings to life the extraordinary nature of these animals as well as the deeply personal relationship that Katy has with them. And even today, her child-like enthusiasm and ever-questioning mind still draw new insights out of every elephant encounter. A heart-warming and fascinating treat.

Katy's book: Silent Thunder - in the presence of elephants
is published by Penguin. ISBN 0-14-028596-2

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