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Monday, October 13, 2008

Text from elephants warns of danger

The title of this post seems a bit misleading. This is an interesting innovation, trying to address a problem when elephants (or other animals) live in a sanctuary or compound that is close to human habitation. In such cases, there can be many cases of conflict between the humans and the animals; such conflict is typically where either the animal is foraging for food, or moving out of the current territory. However, this causes problems when humans are nearby - this can lead to the humans treating the animals as a danger, with poisoned food, or with weapons. In some cases, especially when dealing with larger animals, humans have also lost their lives:

The text message from the elephant flashed across Richard Lesowapir's screen: 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 phone card inserted in his collar sent rangers a text message.
The race to save Kimani began two years ago. The Kenya Wildlife Service had already reluctantly shot five elephants from the conservancy who refused to stop crop-raiding, and Kimani was the last of the regular raiders. The Save the Elephants group wanted to see if he could break the habit. So they placed a mobile phone SIM card in Kimani's collar, then set up a virtual "geofence" using a global positioning system that mirrored the conservatory's boundaries. Whenever Kimani approaches the virtual fence, his collar texts rangers. They have intercepted Kimani 15 times since the project began. Once almost a nightly raider, he last went near a farmer's field four months ago.

This is very interesting, and may help a long way in resolving the tension that comes in when humans and wild animals interact in the open, outside their traditional boundaries.

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