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article imageDigital devices to track elephants, news for World Elephant Day

By Tim Sandle     Aug 12, 2017 in Technology
Digital trackers are being used to follow the movement of elephants, as part of conservation projects and to protect elephants from poachers. This digital innovation is timely for World Elephant Day.
Tracking the spatial ecology of elephants is proving to be an effective approach, National Geographic reports, to develop new solutions for maintaining and protecting elephant populations and their environment. An example is with the use of radio collars.
Radio equipped technology allows for the near-instantaneous observation of the GPS location of an elephant. Data are transmitted via satellite and the signals are interpreted by sophisticated software algorithms which monitor incoming elephant movement datastreams. Information, such as alerting that elephants that become unnaturally immobile, allows responses by those engaged in elephant conservation to be quicker. This could lead, for instance, to catching poachers.
Such technology has been used in parts of Africa for the past two or three years, and the use is expanding. Recently it was reported that latest GPS and satellite communication technology developed by The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) and the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks was to be used to help follow Malaysian elephants.
African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is a forest-dwelling species of elephant found in the C...
African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is a forest-dwelling species of elephant found in the Congo Basin. It is the smaller of the two species.
Boyd Matson
To combat poaching a digital startup is develop a blockchain to track product origins. This idea comes from Jessi Baker, who is the founder of blockchain technology platform Provenance. Baker envisions a future where all physical products have digital histories, allowing people to trace and verify products’ origins, attributes and ownership. She sees this as key to helping to stamp out the illegal trade in elephant ivory.
Digital technology can help to highlight conservation in other ways. For instance, a startup is making a “Pokemon Go” game based on the movements of real animals. This is the idea by Gautam Shah, founder of Internet of Elephants, a U.S. and Kenya-based start up, who is launching to educational game Safari Central. In the augmented reality game, Safari Central, players can follow real elephants, with in-app purchases go towards conservation projects for those animals.
A baby elephant is reunited with her mother after being rescued from a watering hole.
A baby elephant is reunited with her mother after being rescued from a watering hole.
Screen Capture
Risks to elephants include environmental changes and from poachers. Despite a ban on the international trade in ivory, African elephants in particular are still being poached in large numbers. The extracted ivory is often carved into ornaments and jewellery – China is the biggest consumer market for such products, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Elephants are also suffering from climate change and from habitat loss. With the loss of suitable areas to roam, the charity' Save The Elephants' states that elephants are increasingly being crowded out of their habitats. One reason for this is down to humans, who are encroaching into lands traditionally inhabited by elephants for farming and infrastructural development. This leaves elephants with only small patches of disconnected land. In relation to climate change, Dr. Hannah Mumby from the University of Sheffield recently found that the already endangered species faces further struggle as even the slightest temperature change can lower their chances of survival dramatically. This came from a study into Myanmar's elephants, published in the journal Ecology.
A forest elephant in its natural habitat.
A forest elephant in its natural habitat.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife
The use of digital tracking highlights how digital technology can help with conservation, and it fist in with World Elephant Day (#WorldElephantDay). World Elephant Day (@wrldelephantday) is an international annual event on August 12, dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world's elephants, supported by over 65 wildlife organizations.
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