Among the Elephants Blog
June 9, 2014
After the sad loss of Amayeta earlier this year her collar has been awaiting redployment at the STE camp. As this collar (STE2010-1232, 148.592) had only been fitted around one year ago it was decided that it should be re-deployed on another orphan.
There was much deliberation amongst the team about who should be chosen as the target. It was finally decided that we would attempt to collar an orphan named Soutine (R21.04) from the Artists 1 family. Although there was some apprehension about her small size, she is one of the most interesting orphans we have here in Samburu as she frequently switches between different family groups. Previously she had commonly been spotted with the Zodiacs family, but more recently she appears to have been spending more time with her natal family, the Artists.
It was confirmed that the vet would be in Samburu on the 9th June 2014 and the team therefore spent the night before readying the collar. The worries about the size of the elephant meant that the collar required a few adjustments. The belt was cut to make it both narrower and shorter and the team tested out some different weights to determine which was most appropriate. The worry was not that the collar would be uncomfortable for the elephant simply that it might look odd on such a small individual and that tourists may question why this elephant had been collared.
The morning of the 9th June Shifra left camp early to conduct LTM. She found the Artists family with R21.04 in Old Larsen’s. The vet, having finished his operation removing a collar from a Grevy’s, was ready to find the elephant at around 1pm. The team left camp in two cars to search for the target. Unfortunately when we reached the spot where Shifra had seen them they were nowhere to be found. Eventually they were sighted across the river in Buffalo Springs.
One car remained by the river with the elephants in sight while the remaining teams returned to camp for lunch. In the last couple of weeks there have been frequent sightings of huge herds of livestock in Buffalo Springs Reserve and today was no exception as a herd of cows soon approached the river to drink. In this instance the livestock worked in our favour as they served to push the elephants further along the river bank to where they eventually crossed back to Samburu side.
The teams at camp were informed and soon arrived to proceed with the operation. At 16.07 the dart was in but the elephant remained reasonably calm and began slowly walking away from her position by the riverbank. Soutine went down at 16:13 in a good position on her side next to the road. At 10 years old she was definitely the smallest elephant to have been collared by the STE team, but the operation could not have gone more smoothly. The collar was quickly fastened in place whilst the interns took some size measurements and the vets monitored her breathing.
By 16:25 she was back on her feet. Fortunately the collar fitted well and did not look as big as expected. After standing and investigating her new attire with her trunk she soon turned and disappeared back into the bushes in search of her family. The team returned to camp very happy and relieved at the success of the operation.
In anticipation of any questions we may be asked by visitors about the collaring of such a small individual, Shifra and Yiwei plan to create a small leaflet detailing STE’s collaring project and outlining its methods and its goals. We hope to distribute these in lodges for the information of any tourists who are interested.