Juma’s RoarTone from the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

Meet Juma, folks, the male lion within the African Lion Exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, and today’s ringtone “collaborator.” Earlier this year, I called the zoo to ask if I could attempt to record the lion whose bellow carries over hills, on some mornings when I walk in Highland Park. Juma is the 20-year-old Panthera leo with the powerful roar.

Shiba and Juma

Tracy Gray, Public and Media Relations Manager, was my guide for the recording adventure. On a bright spring morning last week, as we and I approached the African Savanna, I rushed to connect and turn on my recording equipment. Before the exhibit was in sight, we could hear Juma roaring. Many mornings, Tracy said, “It seems to happen when men approach the exhibit–it’s as if he says, ‘I’m the dominant male in this place!‘”

I wasn’t quick enough to capture that first roar from afar, but within a few minutes, some other male Homo sapiens approached, and Juma, true to Tracy’s description, stood up and roared! Here’s Juma’s RoarTone.

Feeling very “proud” to have captured Juma the Lion’s roar, I joked to Tracy that our work was over and I could head home. Juma is King of the Savannah, after all!

Then I asked Tracy, who’s been working at the Zoo for 5 years, to tell about some of her favorite zoo experiences. “I love listening to the keepers talk about the animals. They talk about things the public or general staff wouldn’t know about–the animals’ personality traits or quirks. That’s fun. I also enjoy observing the visitors’ delight when they see the animals–when the penguins swim up to the windows, for example, to have a look at the visitors.” Tracy was certainly able to observe my delight that morning–it had been about 20 years since my last visit to the zoo, and when we walked by the Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) exhibit, I couldn’t contain my excitement at seeing the herd collectively run, turn, jump and leap. It was like watching a precise or rhythm or musical composition come to life through the movement of animals. What stunning choreography!

Tracy Gray

Tracy was a gracious and thoughtful guide–she had identified other potential ringtone collaborators for us to visit. We headed over to the Tropical Forest, where we patiently observed and listened to the lively, and often quite loud, Tracy said, Howler Monkeys. But that morning, they monkeys were more in the mood for a quiet hang out session.

A white-cheeked gibbon (Hylobates concolor)--another type of monkey in the zoo's Tropical Forest

Next on the list were the Penguins and California Sea Lions housed in and near the PPG Aquarium. Those creatures did vocalize, but I faced acoustic-environmental challenges which prohibited me from capturing audio “clean” enough for good ringtones.

As I packed up my equipment, Tracy mentioned that she had some other zoo tone ideas, and suggested that we might try recording animal sounds on another day. I thanked her for her collaborative assistance, and told her I had prepared to be patient on our expedition at the zoo (having spent 4 hours one day waiting to record enough audio for last year’s Horsie Tones). I understood that we’d need good timing and luck to capture audio in that particular kingdom.

Many thanks to Tracy Gray, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium for a fine and kingly contribution to Locally Toned!

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