Visit from Ethiopia: Yirmed Demeke, Addis Ababa


David Daballen

Date Published

On a number of occasions Save the Elephants has been sharing its expertise and training visiting researchers. For example, we assisted Hemma from Sehal in West Africa and Steve and Michelle from South Africa to set up an individual identification system for elephants in their areas. Another such researcher, an Ethiopian called Yirmed Demeke, wrote to Iain Douglas-Hamilton seeking to learn more about tracking elephants using GPS collars. In consequence, two weeks ago we received a visit from this zoologist who came to stay with us in the Samburu research centre.

Yirmed is part of the African Elephant Specialists group, studying one of the few isolated elephant populations remaining in the Horn of Africa, near the borders of Somalia. The main purpose of his visit was to learn about the GSM tracking programme and exact procedures for putting GPS collars on elephants.

Yirmed did not have a long time in camp to learn everything, so we gave him a full schedule of training from our researchers. Henrik Rasmussen spent much time with him, as he is the most specialised in the logistics of collaring operations in the field. He showed Yirmed the tracking equipment we use, including the different types of collars that can be used and their cost, etc. and helped him to find the most appropriate collar for his research. He also went through the practicalities of operational procedures, for example how many people he needs and the most vital equipment needed for collaring.

Gilbert Lekalau then spent a day showing him the various types of software used to download data from GPS collars and the tracking programmes necessary for analysing the information. Yirmed also went out with David Daballen to see some collared elephants which he had never seen before in the wild, and to use the receiving equipment to track the elephant. Unfortunately he came at a time of rain when most of the elephants had left the reserve to inaccessible areas!

By the end of his training in this modern method of tracking elephants, Yirmed was very excited about using these techniques in his own research and was very keen to practice using the software.