Documenting Wildlife Across the Globe Three world explorers — a photographer, an acoustician and a scientist — talk about documenting wildlife in the most remote places on Earth. We'll track jaguars through the jungles of Belize, scope out rare mountain goats in India, and eavesdrop on barking baboons in Zimbabwe.
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Documenting Wildlife Across the Globe

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Documenting Wildlife Across the Globe

Documenting Wildlife Across the Globe

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Imagine you're in the Amazon, in the jungle, at night. It's pitch black. You're far from camp, and suddenly you realize, you are not alone.

(Soundbite of jaguar growling)

FLATOW: That's a jaguar 30 feet from you. What do you do now?

This has happened to more than one of my next guests that got within growling distance of a jaguar. And what did they do? Well, what any good naturalist would: Turn on your tape recorder or snap a picture.

For the rest of the hour, we're going to talk about what it's like to document wildlife in the field. Our guests are three world explorers. They have traveled to the most remote corners of the Earth, recording wildlife through sound photography and science.

And if you'd like to join our conversation, give us a call. Our number is 1-800-989-8255, 1-800-989-TALK. You can also join a group of avatars, fellow avatars in "Second Life." Just look for Science School and look at the folks there up on the podium with their SCIENCE FRIDAY T-shirts on. And you can click on our "Second Life" link on our Web site.

Frans Lanting is a wildlife photographer and frequent contributor to National Geographic magazine. He has worked in many award-winning books. And you can find some of his latest photographs of albatrosses in National Geographic's December 2007 issue. He joins us from Santa Cruz, California.


Mr. FRANS LANTING (Wildlife Photographer, National Geographic): Good morning, Ira.

FLATOW: Good morning. Alan Rabinowitz is the director for science and exploration at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. He has studied big cats for several decades. He is author of several books including "Life in the Valley of Death", "The Fight to Save Tigers in a Land of Guns, Gold and Greed." He joined us by phone from the Bronx Zoo.

Dr. ALAN RABINOWITZ (Director for Science and Exploration, Wildlife Conservation Society): Hi.

FLATOW: How are things at the Bronx Zoo today?

Dr. RABINOWITZ: They are good. All of our tigers are in their cages.

FLATOW: I was going to get to that. Good for you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Dr. Bernie Krause is a bio-acoustician and president and CEO of Wild Sanctuary. He is a pioneer in electronic music. He's one of the first to play the Moog synthesizer and work with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. He was a member of the famous Weavers folk singing group. He gave it up, though, and began recording sounds 40 years ago. He is the author of "Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Voice of the Natural World." And he joins us from our Rohnert Park, California. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

Dr. BERNIE KRAUSE (Chief Executive Officer and President, Wild Sanctuary; Bio-acoustician): Hello, Ira.

FLATOW: What made you give it up?

Dr. KRAUSE: I didn't give up anything. I've always been in sound. That's how I see the world as, you know, we're a very visual culture and - but my - because I have such terrible eyesight, I was able to just understand my world through sound. And so the natural world is the most beautiful thing that you can possibly hear.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. What were the first sounds you began recording?

Dr. KRAUSE: Well, I had an album to do for Warner Brothers with my late music partner Paul Beaver. And the album was called "In A Wild Sanctuary" and it required that we go out into the field and record natural soundscapes as a component of orchestration. And it was, really, the first album ever to express the theme of ecology. And it was done in 19 - it was released by Warner Brothers in 1970, and that was what really got me started. And once I got outside and put earphones on and turned on the recorder, the rest was history for me. I didn't even ever want to go back in the studio again.

FLATOW: How many sounds have you recorded over the years?

Dr. KRAUSE: I've got about 3,500 hours of soundscapes from around the world and maybe 15,000 creatures.

FLATOW: Hmm. Well, we're going to take a little break, come back and start listening to those sounds. We're also going to talk with Frans Lanting and Alan Rabinowitz about their work and how they work with images and kind of interesting recordings that they have done. So stay with us.

1-800-989-8255 is our number. We'll talk about sounds of the wild. What they sound like? Get your questions; maybe there's one there we can look at, or maybe you have some. Stay with us. We'll be right back after this short message.

(Soundbite of music)


(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

We're talking about the wildlife photography and sound collecting with Frans Lanting, Alan Rabinowitz and Dr. Bernie Krause. Our number 1-800-989-8255. We started off the hour with this great jaguar sound.

Alan Rabinowitz, you have studied jaguars. Tell us how you track one?

Dr. RABINOWITZ: Well, there are several ways of tracking it. The most basic way, of course, is finding - getting on to one of its actual footprints in the jungle or to find sign - its scrapes, its markings - and then just follow it.

I'll only do that if it's a very, very fresh track because otherwise it makes no sense, and I'll stay on it for as long as I can. But often, as you've mentioned earlier in the opening, well, whenever I try to track a jaguar that way, I often find it has circled around and is tracking me.

FLATOW: Do you have an experience you could describe for us?

Dr. RABINOWITZ: Yeah, yeah. I have a very vivid experience. I was actually tracking - I was on one of the freshest tracks I'd ever encountered to where the dirt was actually still breaking inside of the track, so I knew the jaguar was just up ahead of me in the jungles of Belize. And I got onto it, it was a big male I hadn't seen before in that area, and I was on it pretty quickly.

And after several - as usual, it stayed ahead of me. I couldn't get to it. I was hoping I'd find it, catch up with it or find it over kill. After several hours, it was getting dark and I had to get back to the camp because I didn't have a flashlight, so I turn around and there was the jaguar probably no more than 15 feet in back of me and it had been step - it had been walking in my tracks. It was the same jaguar which I later confirm by coming back the next day and backtracking it. But it had circled around and for quite a distance while I thought I was tracking it with my head down and my body kneeling, it had been just right in back of me, right in back of me.

And I faced it, and my first impulse, actually, was to make myself small. So I crouched down, became not at all a dominant-looking figure, hoping the jaguar was thinking the jaguar would walk off into the forest. And the jaguar just sat down. I crouched down, it sat down and we just looked at one another for, I don't know 25, 30 seconds. And I started getting a bit nervous, realizing that there was not a lot of alternatives here. And I stood up, stepped back and the jaguar jumped up, just let out a fairly quiet growl and then just walked off into the forest.

FLATOW: Wow. Frans, anything like that happened to you at all?

Mr. LANTING: No. I haven't worked with jaguars, but, you know, I can well imagine being in that position because I have worked with big cats elsewhere. And, you know, there are situations where you have to act on instinct. And it's a really interesting thing what happens to you when you work up closely with animals, you know? Rationality is often replaced by thinking through your feet or thinking through your skin.

FLATOW: Do you say, what the heck am I doing in there, working, when you get into trouble like that?

Mr. LANTING: Uh-huh.

FLATOW: Yeah. Tell us…

Dr. KRAUSE: Ira, I have got a…

FLATOW: Sure. Go ahead.

Dr. KRAUSE: …I've got a question for Alan.


Dr. KRAUSE: Alan, did you ever track a jaguar by smell, by its marking?

Dr. RABINOWITZ: I try. It's very difficult in the rainforest for me to do that, being lesser of an animal than the jaguars are. I could - when the smells are very fresh, when the anal scent is fresh or the urine is very fresh, I can get on them. But it never, it would - I would often use that only to lead me to tracks and things I could follow. I could never really follow them just by scent. And maybe it was me and somebody could do better, but I could never stay on them very long with scent alone.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. Frans, you were the first to take photos of bonobos in the wild. They're so amazing, aren't they?

Mr. LANTING: Yes. They're, you know, they're cousins to the common chimpanzee, of course. But when I went to the Congo basin in the early 1990s on assignment for National Geographic, there were very few photographs of bonobos in the wild and very few people, you know, knew how to appreciate them. That was a grueling undertaking which I carried out with a Japanese scientist, Dr. Kano(ph), who is, at that time, the only scientist who had consistent direct observations of bonobos.

FLATOW: Hmm. Interesting. We have a bit of sound I want to play about the Amazon. We thought we had a little bit of the sound of the jungle. The Amazon is very much different during the day than it is during the night, is it not? Dr. Krause?

Dr. KRAUSE: Oh, there's no question about it. Each period of the day or night - in each period of the day or night, the forest responds differently to sound. For instance, during the day, it tends to be a little bit drier so the sound doesn't reverberate as much. And at night, it's very reverberant. And the critters that love echo, of course, vocalize at night. So…

FLATOW: All right. Let's play some of those, so we can hear it as you talk about it. Let's play the…

Dr. KRAUSE: Sure.

FLATOW: …it's your sound. Let's play the during the day version of it.

(Soundbite of forest sound)

FLATOW: Sounds just like we would expect it to sound jungle.

Dr. KRAUSE: Yeah. It's very dense and there's a lot of diversity. And what's interesting is that each of these critters is partitioning so that they'll all have these channels in which they transmit their vocalization. It's like television channels - some insects are on channel 4, birds are on channel 2, the mammals are on channel 1 and so on.

FLATOW: Oh, quite an…

Dr. KRAUSE: They not only have these frequency channels but they also have temporal channels in which they vocalize so this partitioning is very, very articulate in particularly in tropical rainforests.

FLATOW: All right. Let's go to - let's switch now and go to the nighttime version of the same place.

(Soundbite of forest sound)

FLATOW: Much different.

Dr. KRAUSE: Absolutely. Lot of frogs, lot of insects.

FLATOW: It's not peaceful at all, is it?

Dr. KRAUSE: It's always in the - the closer you get to the equator in tropical rainforests, the louder it gets. And let me tell you, it can be really deafening at times.

FLATOW: Even at nighttime, it's pretty loud.

Dr. KRAUSE: Even at nighttime.

FLATOW: Wow. How long did it take you - how long does it take you to collect the sound, a specific sound? Do you go sound hunting or you just go around with your microphone?

Dr. KRAUSE: No. Actually, we've gone sound hunting because it's very difficult to get material these days. For one thing, the habitats are almost gone. And the other thing is the human noise, because of human population, is encroaching on all of these habitats. And the other thing is is that there - it's very, very - it used to take me 16 hours to get one hour of sound in - when I first started 40 years ago. Now, it takes 2,000.

FLATOW: Wow. Well, Frans does it take you a long time to find like a frog some place?

Mr. LANTING: Yes, it often does. And what takes even more time is to be able to wait for the right conditions because, you know, I'm looking for very specific ways to simplify or to express a scientific idea or a conservation paradigm. And, yeah, that just doesn't happen all that often when conditions and light and all of these things connect to the point that it becomes a magical image.

FLATOW: Do any of you ever use staged photos? There was a controversy, a scandal many years ago about wildlife photography and people staging the photos to make them think that it was actually happening in the wild.

Mr. LANTING: When I have worked for National Geographic, you'll - we're very careful to depict things accurately because the Geographic's credibility is rooted in authentic situations. So, you know, I've worked with scientists and then after the fact, you know, the accuracy of situations is checked by researchers.

FLATOW: Let's go to the phones, 1-800-989-8255. Let's go to Robert(ph) in Charleston, South Carolina. Hi, Robert.


FLATOW: Hi, there.

ROBERT: I was curious for your panel. We know that elephants communicate at a frequency that we cannot hear, and we know the mice communicate at a frequency that we can't hear. I'm wondering if the scientists have looked for frequencies that we humans can't hear in the jungle or the rainforest.

FLATOW: Good question. And Bernie, Alan, any of the…

Dr. RABINOWITZ: We actually have done that. It was - scientists have been doing that. The elephant work actually brought it out a bit a lot more, and we started testing a lot of other species. But since I was in graduate school, working on black bears in their hibernating dens, we used to test for different sounds, the ultrasonic sounds and other things. And what we have been finding is that there are - usually, more often than not, there are sounds on other levels, beyond human hearing. What we don't know as much is what these other sounds mean. We haven't figured that out. But almost every species we have tested does produce sounds at other levels other than what we can hear. And I don't know if Bernie has tested that or found the same thing.

Dr. KRAUSE: Yes, I have, Alan. And as a matter of fact, what's interesting about this is at the highest and lowest vocalizations are in the cetacean group. The highest is the (unintelligible) Ganges dolphin, up at 356 kilohertz, if you can believe. And the lowest is probably a right whale, down around 3 hertz. So you've got that range all in the cetaceans, the whales.

FLATOW: Hmm. Let's go listen for another - to another sound. You have a - we've collected another sound of ants singing. Now, we don't normally think that ants are singing. Let's see if Josh can get that to play and then we'll talk about what we're listening to.

(Soundbite of ants singing)

FLATOW: Bernie, ants singing.

Dr. KRAUSE: Yes. These are carpenter ants. And so if you drop a little microphone, a little lavalier microphone right in the ant hole, you'll be able to get these ants stridulating. Now, what they do is they rub their little legs on their abdomen and create this kind of sound.

We're actually being filmed by National Geographic when this occurred. And the - we had dropped the microphone just on top of the ant hole and the ants were communicating to one another, not by pheromone, which is typically what we think about, which is the scent of - that ant's put out, but by sound.

FLATOW: Is that like rubbing their legs like crickets do together?

Dr. KRAUSE: Yes it is.

FLATOW: Oh. And…

Dr. KRAUSE: Only crickets rub their wings together. They have a scraper and a file on their wings that create the cricket sound.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. 1-800-989-8255 is our number. Talking about wild sounds this hour. Frans, you have photographed habitats for a long time. Have you noticed changes in global warming to these habitats at all?

Mr. LANTING: Yes, definitely, that I'm in a position to go back to a place that I know from previous expeditions. It's quite apparent. Sometimes there are population changes, sometimes it's habitat loss. Climate change is much harder to observe directly because there are just, you know, there are - they're impressions, of course, and that is where your scientific information is really, you know, too much more important as a way to get changes across.

FLATOW: Hmm. We have actually some glacier sound. Let's listen to some of the glaciers calving here.

(Soundbite of glaciers calving)

FLATOW: Wow. Bernie, that's so powerful.

Dr. KRAUSE: Yeah, the glaciers are really an impressive phenomenon. We actually walked back into the - onto the glacier itself some several miles and dropped a hydrophone down one of the crevasses and got the whole mass of the glacier moving over the terrain, forming the moraine. And that's an impressive sound too. It's too loud actually here on the radio, but it's powerful.

FLATOW: We're talking about wild sounds this hour on TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

I once - when I was in Antarctic almost 30 years ago, I climbed up on a little - tongue of a glacier and put my microphone on the ice to hear it melting, and I just heard a little tinkling of water as it was melting through the glacier. And then proceeded to slip off and fall down off the glacier.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: As I started sliding backwards.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. KRAUSE: It can be dangerous too.

FLATOW: I was only four feet off the ground so it was pretty good.

Dr. KRAUSE: You know, Frans was talking just a minute ago about global warming issues, you brought that one up.


Dr. KRAUSE: We've got - the first soundscape recordings that are calibrated - sound recordings of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And we found evidence of that in 2006, when we did the Arctic Soundscape Project, and what's happening is the bird density, the migrating bird density is changing very rapidly. It's being overtaken by robins because it's so warm at many of the sites that previously robins just weren't there in any kind of numbers at all. In the other site that we have that we've been checking out is the Galapagos, and we just have a new album that was just released yesterday.

FLATOW: Oh, really?

Dr. KRAUSE: From recordings that we made - yeah - these are the only soundscape recordings that have ever been made of either the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the Galapagos and it's really important that we listen to these things in context to not take the critters out of their - out of context.

(Soundbite of critters)

FLATOW: Now, there's a little bit of the…

Dr. KRAUSE: Well, this is Galapagos.

FLATOW: Now there's a little the…

Dr. KRAUSE: Yeah these are…

FLATOW: There's a little bit of the recording. Tell us about it.

Dr. KRAUSE: Yeah, these are Darwin's finches.

FLATOW: And where did you record this?

Dr. KRAUSE: This was on one of the islands in the Galapagos in a place called the Scully Sia(ph) Forest.

FLATOW: And this is the first recording of them as far as you know?

Dr. KRAUSE: This is the first soundscape recording of these birds. They've been separated out of context to deconstruct it and, recordings of each bird has been made, but not of the entire environment. And so we spent - we went there in January of 2004 and recorded at different sites just to get samples of what the soundscape was like in the Galapagos so it could be compared.

FLATOW: Fascinating. Alan Rabinowitz, would you - speaking of new things, you have discovered a new species, have you not? The leaf deer?

Dr. RABINOWITZ: Yes, that was all the way up in the Eastern Himalayas in northern Burma.

FLATOW: How did that happen?

Dr. RABINOWITZ: Well, it is interesting because people often ask how do you discover a new species. And it's kind of the scientist's dream to do so. And it's strange how you end up doing it these days. Because most of the new discoveries that have been occurring, at least of mammals, have often been from dead animals - from animal parts from going into villages or in local marketplaces and seeing what people - local people are selling or using or tacking up to their walls in remote areas. So I was just doing a wildlife survey way up in northern Myanmar by the Tibet border and it had taken us about two months to walk into this one particular village.

And I walked into a hut of a hunter and up on the wall was what he called a trophy wall - a trophy board of all of his - the skulls of all the kills that he'd made because they believe that if they hang the skull, that they will have better luck hunting that particular species. And I realized there was a skull up there which looked clearly like a barking deer skull, but it didn't look like a barking deer skull. It had fangs, it had long canine teeth unlike any -much longer than any barking deer I had seen. And there was also part of the head, which had tiny little antlers. So the local people immediately told me that it was - that it was a different kind of deer. They knew - I showed them pictures of what exists, what we know…

FLATOW: All right, Alan, hang on to the story. It's a great tale. As always, we have to interrupt these good ones. So we'll come back after the break and hear more about the discovery of this new deer. Stay with us, we'll be right back.

I'm Ira Flatow. This is TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

We're talking about the wildlife this hour, collecting it in sound and photographs with my guests. Frans Lanting is a wildlife photographer and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Magazine. Alan Rabinowitz is director for science and exploration at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, author of "Life in the Valley of Death: The Fight to Save Tigers in a Land of Guns, Gold, and Greed." Also, Bernie Krause, a bio-acoustician and president and CEO of Wild Sanctuary.

Is that CD out now, Bernie?

Dr. KRAUSE: Yes, it is. Well it's actually not a CD. It's an MP3 downloaded off of our Web site, which is

FLATOW: Wow. I rudely interrupted Alan. He's getting to the good part of his story about discovering this deer.

Dr. RABINOWITZ: No. I'm going to make it quick. We found those - we found a piece of skull unlike any I had ever seen before. The local people said it was a different kind of deer that only grew to be about two feet tall with tiny little antlers no more than an inch tall, and large fangs. I brought the skull back with some pieces of hair that I found, and genetically it proved to be the most - it was a completely new species and it was genetically the most primitive deer known in the entire world.

So I went back next - the next year to that site and started paying hunters not to kill the deer, which they were doing, but to - but I would pay them double if they brought it to me alive. And I had started having hunters bring me this live tiny deer and it turned out to be a living fossil. It's a no known living deer is a frugavore - eats fruits. This deer is a solitary deer species that eats only fruits and has large fangs and tiny antlers. This was a throwback. It was kind of the missing link between extinct species and living species.

FLATOW: Are we going to see this deer find a home in the Bronx Zoo anytime soon?

Dr. RABINOWITZ: No, I didn't want to bring it back to any - we actually brought a live specimen - two live specimens back to the Yangon Zoo in Burma and took care of them, but unfortunately, they died.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. 1-800-989-8255. David(ph) in Destin, Florida.

Hi, David.

DAVID (Caller): Hi, how are you doing, Ira?

FLATOW: Hi, there.

DAVID: Thanks for taking my call.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

DAVID: I'd like to ask your guests how they disconnect their fear from the big cats so they can get a good quality photo or recording.

FLATOW: Yeah, when you saw that jaguar - I mean, weren't you scared?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. RABINOWITZ: Yes, I was. I think fear is very, very healthy in the forest, in the wild. I'm sure my two colleagues will agree. You want to have some good, healthy dose of fear. People who are fearless or - think or humanize the animals often end up dead. But I think that you just - you have to know what you're doing with these animals. You have to know what their personal space is, you need to know when to approach, when to back off. At least that's my feeling about it. I don't know about my colleagues.

FLATOW: Frans?

Mr. LANTING: Yeah, it's the - of course, Alan is right. If you're working with animals in the wild, you're entering their space. And you have to be paying, you know, extreme attention to their body language that, you know, the moments of danger - at least in my case, you know, they're just rare events - normally, what I do requires a lot of patient observation and then gradually easing closer.

And sometimes when I'm lucky to get into their bubble, where an animal doesn't pay attention to me anymore and they've - once they forget about me, that is when I can really get to work and do interesting things photographically. And a project with albatrosses that was just published in the National Geographic is a good example of that because these birds have almost no fear for humans. They only come ashore on these remote islands in the Southern Ocean and then you're in that kind of situation that no matter whether you're a scientist or a photographer, there are no barriers to making sustained observations.

FLATOW: Like the blue-footed boobies in Galapagos, they'll…

Mr. LANTING: Exactly.

FLATOW: …just go all over the place. Bernie, let's go to another sound. This one, tell us about it. This is really an interesting one. They're all very interesting. This is the sound of crabs falling from trees?

(Soundbite of crabs falling from trees)

FLATOW: In Costa Rica.

(Soundbite of crabs falling from trees)

Dr. KRAUSE: Yeah, this was done in Costa Rica a few years ago. And when the tide goes out in the Osa Peninsula where you have a mangrove swamp, where the water has covered the trees, the tide drops and the crabs just drop back into the mud and the tidal water. And this was - you can actually hear some bats in this recording as well. You hear frogs, crabs, bats, no mammals.

FLATOW: And so those little pops, those are the dropping crabs?

Dr. KRAUSE: Those are - yeah, those are the crabs. And that's part of the soundscape.

FLATOW: And we never think of crabs in trees.


FLATOW: So is the water high enough that they come out of the water in the tree. And when the water recedes, they drop out?

Dr. KRAUSE: Oh, the water comes up four or five feet at this particular point. And that's the tidal range.

FLATOW: Wow. How did you know about the crabs dropping out of trees?

Dr. KRAUSE: Well, we just - we happened to come by this particular spot one night and heard it. And then we saw the crabs in the trees once we shine the light on them.


Dr. KRAUSE: And so we're able to record the sound.

FLATOW: How much luck is there in this business?

Dr. KRAUSE: It's - in my end of the job, it's an enormous amount of luck and patience. And you know, both Alan and Frans were talking earlier about, you know, about fear. And really, it's a different level of awareness. When you're aware that you're part of a whole group of critters, and the playing field is leveled as it is in most cases for us, researchers, and photographers, and people who are doing work in the field, it becomes a very different issue for you. And you learn something about humility that you're probably not going to find in any other realm.

FLATOW: Frans, you agree?

Mr. LANTING: Yes, totally. When you enter the world of nature, you know, you have to take it on its own terms. And it requires a very different awareness than when you live in human society. And it always takes me a while before I get attuned to a place or to an animal. It doesn't happen instantly. And so it's a requirement, but it's a reward in its own right as well. And periodically, situations happen that crystallize into good images. But I think connecting with a place and with an animal and letting nature, you know, become more transparent is a reward in its own right, for me.

FLATOW: Do you have a mission, a point of view, a purpose, when you go out shooting things?

Mr. LANTING: I definitely have. And I believe that, you know, to do the work that I do - the stories, and the books, and the exhibitions, and other events - that we can play a role in reporting about the natural world. And there are really not that many of us.

Alan can probably comment on the waning of two field biologists. You know, much of biology is happening in labs these days. And I think it's important that there are these people, these individuals - no matter whether your medium is sound, or photography, or science, or books - to convey a more direct sense that is scientifically accurate, but that is rooted in personal experience, what it's like to be out there in this different realm that very few of us experience directly anymore.

FLATOW: All three of you, do you feel now that we keep hearing about dwindling ecosystems and losses of species, that it's your mission to go out and capture them before they're gone or to create some noise about them?

Mr. LANTING: I think…

Dr. KRAUSE: Well, it certainly…

Mr. LANTING: Yeah, go ahead.

Dr. KRAUSE: It certainly is mine. It certainly is mine. Fully, 40 percent of my archive - I have 3,500 hours - fully 40 percent of my archive is made up of sounds that are from habitats so radically altered or extinct - if you want to call it that - that you can no longer hear them anymore. And that's a lot of material and a lot of ground.


Dr. RABINOWITZ: My entire - I started the division called science and exploration at the Bronx Zoo, at the Wildlife Conservation Society. And the whole purpose of it was to try to find and explore the Earth's remaining wild places and wild landscapes. And through science, to try to not just document what's there, but to try to save that. That's my entire passion in life.

I do it - different people do it in different ways. I do it using the large cats. Because through the large cats, which everybody feels a strong affinity for, we can - it's not really about saving that particular species by itself. It's about saving very large landscapes, over which the big cat roams.

FLATOW: Well, in that vein, let's listen to a sound that we have from Bernie who supplied us with a really interesting logging comparison, the sounds of before logging and after logging. And…

Dr. KRAUSE: This is selective - it's selective logging, Ira.

FLATOW: Yeah. Selective logging. That means they've gone and chosen certain trees?


Dr. KRAUSE: That's right. And they told us there'd be no impact.

FLATOW: All right, let's hear the before.

(Soundbite of forest sounds)

FLATOW: Sounds very robust.

Dr. KRAUSE: A lot of dynamics, a lot of diversity, a lot of richness. This is up in the Sierras, by the way.

FLATOW: All right. Let's go to - so this is not in some foreign country somewhere out in the wild. This is in the Sierras. Let's listen to the after logging sound.

(Soundbite of forest sounds)

Dr. KRAUSE: Same site a year later.

FLATOW: Silent spring.

Dr. KRAUSE: Yeah. And you know, we should probably point out at this point that there's a lot of information contained in the soundscape. And it's so rich and it's so vital. And it's important for us to begin to consider how the soundscape can inform us about the health of a particular habitat.

In this particular instance - for instance, if we were to take a photograph of that particular place, it would look just as it did before selective logging. You couldn't tell the difference from a photograph. But the soundscape really tells a very different story. And it's a new way of kind of combining both the visual and the oral and looking at our world from a more comprehensive perspective, something - you know, using all of our senses.

FLATOW: Frans, do you agree?

Mr. LANTING: Oh, yes. I think in different situations, different media can play a key role in documenting and interpreting change.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. We're talking about natural sounds and images this hour at TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

Let's go to Eddie(ph) in Illinois. Hi, Eddie.

EDDIE (Caller): Hi.

FLATOW: Hi, there.

EDDIE: So I have a question for all of you. Actually, I'm an undergrad student right now. And I'm very interested - I didn't discover my interest in nature photography until very late in my undergrad career, until I actually did field research in Latin America and I did a photography out there. And I was just wondering, how did you guys got the inspiration to actually start doing nature photography and, like, doing the bio-acoustics and things like that?

FLATOW: Yeah, because Eddie wants to get into it, right, Eddie?

EDDIE: Exactly. Give me hints.

Mr. LANTING: Well, in my case, you know, I started off as an environmental economist. That's my background. But, you know, I became more interested in using photography as a medium to express ideas about the natural world. And I taught myself and, you know, gradually developed connections with editors and publishers.

FLATOW: Could you make a living at the beginning or was it a hobby?

Mr. LANTING: It was a hobby that turned into a passion that became something that I couldn't stay away from. But it certainly wasn't very profitable. And you have to do things your own way. And nobody's going to come up with support initially, so your personal passion is very important.

EDDIE: All right.

FLATOW: All right, good luck to you, Eddie.

EDDIE: Thank you very much.

Dr. KRAUSE: I'd like to add something to that.

FLATOW: Sure, Bernie. Go ahead.

Dr. KRAUSE: For me, it was a problem of ADHD. I was one of these kids who could never concentrate on anything for very long. And I had a terrible, terrible problem that way. When I got out into the wild - again, because I can't see, so I have to listen - when I got out into the wild and began to hear things and began to record them, it changed my life. I became much more peaceful inside. It - the stress went away.

All of these things happen when you get out into the natural world and allow yourself to become immersed in it. It really does have an impact on how you see the world and how you feel about yourself, if you can do it in the right way. That's how I got - that's my big secret. That's how I got into it.

Dr. RABINOWITZ: Can I add a little?


Dr. RABINOWITZ: That's really an interesting story because my entrance - I grew up in New York City. I never saw a cow until I went to college in Maryland. My interest in my field in wildlife came because I was a severe, severe stutterer. And in the New York City school system, they didn't know how to deal with that. And they put me in classes for children with dyslexia, and ADHD, and everything that they had no explanation for.

So I was in these classes for what other kids call the retarded classes until I was in sixth grade. But when I was with animals, I could speak without stuttering. Stutterers can sing without stuttering, and they can speak to animals without stuttering. And I was attracted to the forest or to even little, wild places such as city lots because I didn't have to talk because I could listen and I could watch. And all of that pressure drained away from me. So I got my voice back through animals and through the wild.

Dr. KRAUSE: Well, Alan, we should form a group.

Dr. RABINOWITZ: Yeah, that's right. That's right.

FLATOW: Now these places are vanishing now that you can get away to and commune with nature anymore.

Dr. KRAUSE: Well, there's an - that's true, Ira. There's a fellow who just wrote a book - his name is Richard Louv, L-O-U-V. And he wrote a book called "Last Child in the Woods," which speaks about just this kind of issue that Alan and I have just revealed.

FLATOW: So if you want to get into this business, get into this business, literally, get into it. Get out there into the wild and do it. Bernie, any new sound you're after that we should listen for?

Dr. KRAUSE: Well, just - like I say, this new release, the Galapagos, it's the first time anybody will ever have a chance to hear the Galapagos in this format. And also, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and both of these places are under siege right now. And this will give you a good idea of what we need to protect.

FLATOW: And Frans, you have the December issue of National Geographic?

Mr. LANTING: Yes, the albatross story is published in there. There's also video clips on the Geographic's Web site. And on our own Web site,, there'll be more information about related events.

FLATOW: And if you can't find any of those, you can just go to Science Friday and we have the links to those spots there. And Alan, the book, "Life in the Valley of Death: The First - The Fight to Save Tigers in a Land of Guns, Gold, and Greed" out by Island Press in 2007. Thank you all. Thank you, gentlemen. Have a happy holiday. Happy New Year to all of you. Thanks for taking the time to be with us.

Mr. LANTING: Good being with you.

Dr. KRAUSE: Thank you, Ira.

Dr. RABINOWITZ: Thank you.

FLATOW: You're welcome. Frans Lanting, Alan Rabinowitz and Bernie Krause.

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