Previously STE together with its other partners like NRT, had deployed three GPS collars to elephants at Sera in order to monitor their movements. Back in 1998, a long tracked animal Ngolia was among the first animals going through that area and since then, it’s always been an important area for us as far as elephant monitoring is concerned.
Through our radio tracking movements, Sera is one of the very important elephants regions. As we have seen, all three previously collared animals are part of our core identified Samburu elephants who are users of these reserves at one particular time.
Its dawn and the STE team is again on the move to deploy the two Satellite collars in the vast Sera Conservancy, which is still relatively very wild country compared with many of the community conservancies in the region. David and his team left Samburu quarter to five in the morning to join NRT team headed by Ian Craig, who was there a day earlier in order to locate the animals whose collars needed to be replaced.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by loud sound of a chopper on the air, an indication that the air support team is already looking and listening for any signal from the old collars that needed to be replaced. We drove straight to Kauro Airstrip and waited for Ian and his team to land and update us. Unfortunately, there was no signal at all from any of the two females. We re-group again and make our second plan. On our way to Sera we find a lot of fresh tracks towards Sere-o-lipi and that is where Ian would have another one more look.
The ground team, David and most of the security team, would advance towards (Kisima Hamsini) singing wells, where a huge herd had been spotted earlier. Its forty minutes away and we had to move fast as it’s getting hot. Ian was going to check the herd near Sere-o-lipi Luggah. Then we all met at Kisima Hamsini for the next step.
We arrived at singing wells and found a joint security personnel holding a young elephant calve rescued from the deep singing wells, after a brief familiarization rumble, we went ahead to climb a huge rock to try and see if we could be lucky to pick a signal, unfortunately, no signal at all. Ian also landed and there was still no sign of the females.
After close consultation and consideration of the situation, we decided that we would go for the big herds at the east of Laantana area. The darting team took-off and within ten minutes the dart was in. This is normally an anxious moment for the team until the animal goes down. The female went down on very weird position, and we had to rush to the scene with help of the choppers’ direction. With ropes and all the man-power, we pushed the female to lie on her side, it was all fine once she was in the right position and we fitted the collar.
We were running behind the schedule and it was getting hot and it’s that time when all the elephants are looking for some shed and that was our main worry. We had to get them before they all go into the shed. The team found another herd of about ten animals and darted one immediately, it was within the same area and we just followed the chopper as much as we could due to bad terrain until we heard an elephant down, then we rushed quickly and fitted the collar and the anti-dart administered, although we took very short time to do everything, this female took generally about 4-5 minutes to be on her feet which is sometimes a big worry.
The last two sets of GPS collars would total to about five GPS collars deployed in the vast Sera area. There is already very interesting data from the previously collared animals. We are all looking forward to seeing more interesting in addition to what we already have. Betsy has already done some cool streaking.
We cannot not thank enough, our donors both Mike and Betsy for their time and kind donation toward this noble mission of joining hands and trying to save the elephants through radio tracking.