A sophisticated 22-pound GPS collar may be the most valuable bling on the African continent.
Seven-ton elephants are now donning advanced satellite tracking devices that let their movements be monitored in real time—technology that’s proving to be a boon for pachyderms and a bust for poachers. Wildlife officials in Kenya and Tanzania are working with WWF to collar elephants in Maasai Mara National Reserve and Selous Game Reserve so rangers can act fast when an elephant goes static or ventures into territory where human interactions might be problematic. Ultimately, rangers are using the technology to help ward off criminals and intervene in other human-elephant conflicts. Insight about when an elephant is active, stationary or injured not only helps scouts act fast, but also lets researchers and conservationists identify migration corridors and make better land-use policies in places where development of farms or other human settlements, or the construction of fences or roads, will encroach upon and cut through crucial habitat.
As illegal hunters have ravished elephant populations in a lust for tusks coveted by Asia, the high-tech collars are just one cutting-edge crime-fighting tool being used toward the long-range goal for zero-poaching of these smart and empathetic animals. Satellite-pinging collars are boosting WWF’s Wildlife Crime Technology Project, which also includes infrared cameras that help rangers nab poachers in the dark and remote sensors and drones that safely detect illegal activities in previously unreachable places.