The smartphone revolution is bringing benefits for elephants. The proliferation of small, economical sensors for use in cellphones has allowed us to start using these sensitive devices to better understand – and protect – elephants.
Accelerometers detect motion by sensing g-forces, and when placed on animals can be used to measure body orientation, overall activity levels and specific behaviors of elephants (Soltis et al, 2012). With this new device, elephants can be monitored more effectively, and alarms could be sent within minutes of potentially deadly confrontations such as poaching or human-elephant conflict.
So far, our work – conducted in close collaboration with Joseph Soltis and Disney’s Animal Kingdom – has shown that elephant behaviors are detectable using accelerometers, but some behaviours were more readily distinguished than others. In general, for the captive elephants tested in the first phase, swaying, walking, and feeding were the most easily differentiated, while bathing was often confused with feeding and walking (Soltis et al, 2012).
In February 2013, the new collars were fitted on wild African elephants in Samburu, and we are looking forward to announcing new insights on elephant behaviour and how they spend their time. Crucially, the data will move us closer to one of our goals which is to use the new technology can be used to rapidly detect the difference between an elephant that has chosen to take a rest, and one that is in trouble.
More Projects Under Research
The fate of elephants is in the balance. The record price of ivory has attracted organised crime, rebel militias and even terrorist groups, fuelling a surge of poaching across the continent. Without the outstanding support and generosity of our donors, STE would not be able to continue securing a future for the elephants. We urgently need your support, while there is still time. You can be of vital assistance by donating to either our core funds or to any of our projects.
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Elephants are fast disappearing from the wild. Without urgent, international action they could be gone within a generation. The Elephant Crisis Fund provides rapid, catalytic support for the most effective projects designed to stop the killing, thwart traffickers and end the demand for ivory. 100% of all donations reach the field.
Save the Elephants is funded almost entirely by private donations. It is only through the generous support of donors that we are able to continue our important elephant conservation work. We rely entirely on funds, grants and donations from around the world, so thank you for helping us to secure a future for these fascinating creatures.