Near real-time positioning of elephants enables us to be proactive in potential poaching and community-conflict situations. As large animals, requiring high amounts of food daily, elephants are on the move constantly covering a vast amount of space.
We survey elephant movement accurately, constantly and efficiently through the use of elephant-friendly GPS collars. Our tracking collars enable us to monitor elephant movements in near real time. The data collected over time helps inform our strategy behind ranger deployment and human-elephant conflict avoidance.
“WE ARE PUTTING COLLARS ON THESE ELEPHANTS SO WE KNOW WHERE THE ELEPHANT IS, IT’S OVERLAID ONTO GOOGLE EARTH. THE COLLARS ALSO HAVE IN-BUILT SOFTWARE THAT IF THEY (THE ELEPHANTS) STOP WE GET IMMOBILITY ALERTS.” Marc Goss, CEO, Mara Elephant Project
The elephant collars MEP uses provide priceless research ensuring long-term data collection. They tend to last 3-5 years and track each elephants’ movements precisely. We can see how these vastly roaming animals travel. We can see if they are spending time on private land, in conservancies or in the national park. This movement tracking can inform our future laws that could ensure land is provided for the elephants to be able to travel freely and safely between the corridors.
In terms of poaching, these collars provide MEP with intelligence that allows us to know where to place patrol groups for the quickest response times. These collars also grant us immobility alerts so that we can check why an elephant has gone immobile. In the best case, we can possibly help the injured animal, and the worst case, be on the scene of an illegally poached elephant as soon as possible to collect evidence and clues to it’s demise.
In terms of human-elephant conflict management these collars allow us to create geo-fences, or a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area. We use Google Earth to track an elephants’ movement patterns and we get alerts if the elephant has left their natural boundary or is heading toward farms, homes or roads where they aren’t welcome. It gives MEP the ability to anticipate a wild animal’s actions by graphing patterns and creating a strategy for deterring them from places where they aren’t welcome.
Collaring elephants is certainly not a perfected process. We take a KWS vet with us and they are able to tranquilize the elephant with a dart gun that puts the elephant out for up to 15 minutes. As soon as the elephant is collared we give them an antidote and stick around to ensure their safety until they have their wits about them. The elephant is always curious of the collar, but ultimately it’s lighter than a necklace on a human. We generally select mature females since that allows us to track herds of elephants by tracking just one elephant. We think bulls are interesting to track, especially if they have big tusks, because they are key elephants to protect against poachers.