Kenya: State to Foster Human-Wildlife Habitation

Date Published

Since 1995 Save the Elephants has been at the forefront of developing live tracking technology to monitor and interpret elephant movements. The technology is constantly being updated and improved. Bulky radio-tracking collars are being replaced by GPS collars, and STE are now pioneering a project using GSM mobile phone technology in collaboration with Safaricom.

Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton and his collaborators have deployed over 80 Global Positioning System (GPS) collars on elephants in Africa. STE is currently deploying several different types, as memory capacity and remote downloading options (via VHF, satellite or GSM technology) are constantly improving.

With GPS collars, researchers receive live information on elephants’ location and movements. Animals can be continuously monitored in places where intensive study is impossible, gathering frequent data and generating detailed maps of elephant movements. Overlaying range maps with GIS (Geographical Information Systems) data gives researchers valuable clues as to elephant motivation.

It is essential to obtain detailed information on elephant movements and seasonal dispersal patterns in order to protect and manage elephant populations effectively. Knowledge of fine-scale movements, obtained from GPS tracking, has enabled researchers to examine the routes used by elephants in moving from one part of their range to another.

Since December 1996 we have amassed a comprehensive database totalling well over 2000 elephant days. Study areas include the protected areas of Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, Ilngwezi conservation area, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Borana Ranch, Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust, Meru and Amboseli National Parks, Shimba Hills National Forest Reserve, and surrounding unprotected areas in Samburu, Isiolo, Laikipia, Kajiado and Kwale Districts.

STE tracking projects are taking place across the African Continent.
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The information is used by managers in developing land-use plans to establish protected corridors and minimise conflict with surrounding communities. The relevance of our research is highlighted by the recent recognition, at the 5th World Parks Congress in September 2003, of the importance of corridors in planning for meta-populations and the need to integrate local people and un-protected areas with national parks and wildlife agencies in management planning and conservation.