Among the Elephants Blog
June 18, 2001
Save the Elephants
Leslie Scott recently 'bought' the new Lotek GPS1000 collar at auction at the STE/Tusk Trust fundraising event at Sotheby's in London. Goya is the matriarch of one of the resident Samburu elephant families called the 'Artists'. She is a tall, distinguished elephant with five known calves whose youngest is a female born in 1999.
Goya's herd usually consists of her calves, including her adult daughter Flaubert with her first calf also born in 1999, and 2 other adult females Rodan and Matisse together with their calves. Iain Douglas-Hamilton flew and located Goya and her herd who were in the reserve in an area of thick bush. From the air Iain directed the 2 vehicles onto the herd, with the STE team of Juliet King, David Daballen, vet Githaiga Kamau, research assistants and rangers, and visiting scientists from the Botswana Elephant Research Project Curt Griffin and Mike Chase.
As the darting vehicle approached Goya kept herself hidden in a thick patch of bush and was reluctant to venture out as the vehicle drove around her. After half an hour we still had no opportunity for a clear shot, and with the plane and vehicles circling, Goya began to get agitated and moved her family away from the disturbance. This gave us an opportunity to move in and fire the dart, which startled her and she ran off with her herd, soon loosing the vehicles in the thick bush.
Luckily Iain was able to follow her from the air, and after 4 minutes reported that she was down and directed the 2 vehicles to the sleeping elephant. The team moved fast to remove the faulty collar and replace it with the new collar, as her family watched us from about 30m away. Within 10 minutes we had fitted the new collar, collected tail hair samples, ear biopsy and blood samples, measured her tusks and injected the antidote. As Goya raised herself slowly onto her legs she rumbled to her family who replied immediately and came rushing to join her.
After much greeting, touching and rumbling she moved off with her family, again disappearing into the thick bush. A successful collaring operation leaves us feeling elated; seeing the elephant wake up and rejoin it's family is a wonderful sight. Although we disturb the family for a short period of time it is a relief to know that the elephants recover quickly and are soon back continuing their life as normal, unaffected by their new collar. The incredibly detailed data we are collecting from these GPS collars is providing us with valuable information on the movements and behavior of these elephants, information that will ultimately be used to ensure the long-term conservation of these elephants and their habitat.