“This noise was no bird call,” Sir David Attenborough narrates in this clip from Attenborough’s Wonder of Song. The 1960 footage shows a young and enthusiastic Attenborough as he sets up a battery-powered portable tape recorder. His goal: Capture the first-ever audio of the Indri, Madagascar’s largest lemur.
In awe, he states, “I had never heard anything like it before.”
“But could we also capture them on camera as well? The song was so loud that it seemed impossible that the animals could be more than 20 or 30 yards away. But where were they? Until now, no one had even managed to photograph a living one, let alone film it.”
Thanks to the recording, Attenborough and his crew finally got to see and film these elusive primates.
This is just one of the seven remarkable animal songs that he explores in the PBS Nature special:
“Each one – from the song of the largest lemur to the song of the humpback whale to the song of the lyrebird – was recorded in his lifetime. But will they soon be heard no more? …Joyous, surprising and poignant, this story of pioneering research and astounding insight is a chorus of wonder – and a wake-up call.”
Per Wikipedia, the critically endangered indri is very vocal, primarily folivorous, and lives in small family groups in the island nation’s forest canopies.
“The indri makes loud, distinctive songs, which can last from 45 seconds to more than 3 minutes. Song duration and structure varies among and even within groups, but most songs have the following three-phase pattern.
“Usually, a roaring sequence lasting for several seconds will precede the more characteristic vocalizations. All members of the group except the very young participate in this roar, but the song proper is dominated by the adult pair. They follow the roar with a long note sequence, characterized by notes of up to five seconds in duration. After this is a descending phrase sequence. The wails begin on a high note and become progressively lower-pitched. It is common for two or more indri to coordinate the timing of their descending notes to form a duet.”
Watch these related videos next:
• Sir David Attenborough at 90, an interview
• The Elephant Bird Egg and rare footage of young David Attenborough
• Why are museum collections so important? Sir David Attenborough explains