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Elephant Tracking and Monitoring

Sumatran elephants are called 'The Ghosts of the Forest' because you could be right next to a herd of them and never know it.

Alex and Albert radio collar elephant BTP
Elephant getting a radio collar fitted

Tracking Elephants by GPS


Since 2012 nine elephants were fitted with radio collars, one elephant in each of the herds monitored by Human Elephant Conflict Mitigation Rangers. The radio collar transmits a signal that can be downloaded to GPS. This signal means the movements of the elephant groups can be tracked, and this is valuable three main reasons:


1. Increase knowledge and understand how elephants are responding to habitat loss

Are they staying within their traditional territory or are they on the move? Do groups socialise with each other or join up for a period of time? Has an elephant stopped moving (illness or death)? Will they try to stay in an area even after it has been cleared? 


2. Warn farmers when elephants are getting close to their crops

If HECM rangers note that an elephant is nearing a village's cropland, they can call or visit the village and give an early warning so farmers have a chance to prepare elephant-safe scare techniques such as sirens, smoke bombs and noise guns. 


3. Physically track the elephants more efficiently with the use of GPS data

Elephants can cover a large distance surprisingly quickly, even in dense forest. Physically tracking down the elephants to document their numbers and health is a faster process when GPS can narrow down the search area. The excellent tracking skills of the HECM rangers take it from there.


Tracking Elephants


Rangers carefully and silently follow the trail left by the elephants through the lowland tropical forest. What have they been feeding on, how fresh is that dung and was it left by a baby or an adult? The rangers proceed swiftly but cautiously, listening for elephant calls and sounds of their movement, feeding or bathing.  When they find them they stay concealed and observe from a safe vantage point.  Elephants are sensitive to danger and will charge if they feel threatened. With the massive habitat loss and the resultant noise of forestry and agri-business development elephants are much more on edge. Rangers are fit and always prepared to depart at speed from an angry protective elephant!