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Texting Elephants

Texting technology is helping animal conservation in Kenya. The Kenya Wildlife Service is making efforts to save Kimani, an African elephant, whose species is on the “near threatened” portion of the Red List. (See last week’s article titled Threatened Species Red List on the International Union for Conservation of Nature, link provided below.)

It seems Kimani likes to raid nearby crops on the outskirts of the Ol Pejeta conservancy. This is devastating to the villagers who can lose as much as six months worth of income due to Kimani’s visits.

Elephants that crop raid are a big problem for the Kenya Wildlife Service which reports over 1,000 complaints a year. While Kimani’s land space dwindles as the villages grow he has put himself and humans in grave danger. The Kenya Wildlife Service has resorted to shooting elephants that raid crops but were presented with an alternative to save Kimani and hopefully others in the future.

Kimani wears a special collar with a mobile phone SIM card in it. A virtual “geofence” was created that would text the Kenya Wildlife Service each time Kimani approaches the fence in search of a crop to raid. It uses a global positioning system but sounds as if it works like the virtual fences homeowners can use to keep their pets in their yard except Kimani doesn’t receive a charge of electricity.

The effect appears to be the same since Kimani is being trained to keep away from the village and they expect that his behavior will retrain the behavior of the group. He used to raid the crops every night and the last report is that he hadn’t raided a crop for four months. The deterrent to Kimani is Kenya Wildlife Service’s arrival to the scene with bright lights to send him on his way back to Ol Pejeta conservancy.

Many programs are in place to protect the elephants. A group called Save the Elephants reports that there is still ivory trade threatening the survival of elephants.

Ol Pejeta believes that about 300 elephants are present on the Conservancy. On top of monitoring the safety of elephants, Ol Pejeta protects other animals through their various wildlife conservation programs, including cheetahs which are becoming one of the rarest big cats and black rhinos, many of which are translocated to Ol Pejeta to a large area. They are monitored with a transmitter placed in their horns. The other animals at Ol Pejeta Conservancy are monitored through the use of the traditional radio collars.

To learn more about an African conservancy visit Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s website.

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