texting elephants

Kenyans have been very creative in using geospatial tools to track animals and manage parks. One challenge is to handle the increasing numbers of human-elephant conflicts, such as trampling gardens and raiding food supplies. In this most recent example of creativity, elephants have been fitted with collars that text local residents when the elephants approach humans’ food.

The text message from the elephant flashed across Richard Lesowapir’s screen: [the elephant] Kimani was heading for neighboring farms.

The huge bull elephant had a long history of raiding villagers’ crops during the harvest, sometimes wiping out six months of income at a time. But this time a mobile Relevant Products/Services phone card inserted in his collar sent rangers a text message. Lesowapir, an armed guard and a driver arrived in a jeep bristling with spotlights to frighten Kimani back into the Ol Pejeta conservancy. [link added

According to the AP story, in addition to the texting, the elephants can be tracked through Google Earth, helping to map and conserve the corridors they use to move from one protected area to another. The technology also can be used to prevent ivory poaching because park managers know where to send resources.

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