Interactive Audio for Elephants

Brief provided by Fiona French and Lisa Yon from The Elephant Welfare Group.

Elephants are naturally social, communicating within their herds, and as they live in a fission fusion society, when groups split off from each other, they often communicate over distance with others from their larger group.

Must be:

  1. Sufficiently robust
  2. Relatively easy to install
  3. Easy for keeper to maintain – e.g. change batteries, dismantle, switch off
  4. Easy for elephant to control, and offer choice

Please consider the nature of the acoustic feedback being offered – for example, is it biologically salient? Is this an important factor for the output to be enriching? What sounds might it cause unwanted stress?

Auditory enrichment may be problematic in an environment with more than one animal – after all, we wouldn’t expect everyone to enjoy the same music; some people prefer silence to any kind of noise; choice of music depends on mood. Therefore, any design must take into consideration the context and offer solutions for:

  1. Reducing the possibility of inciting competition for a resource.
  2. Avoiding domination by one member of a group.
  3. Investigate methods by which the database be made interactive; i.e. allow individuals to record and enrol their own content into the database.
  4. Eliminating (or reducing) unwanted auditory effect on others.
  5. Interfering with existing social structures.
  6. Capability of elephants to fling large objects at keepers and members of public!


Concept development

Everyone contributed to the elephant brainstorming session, but we didn't develop any elephant concepts in the afternoon as we were a small group and could only focus on 3 animals.