Saving the lives of Elephants and Humans

© IFAW/Riccardo Gangale
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Kajiado, Kenya

An exercise to fit tracking collars on four elephants within the Amboseli eco system was completed in Kenya today. The GPS collars, which transmit a satellite and radio signal, map out the elephants’ migratory routes and identify how expansively the elephants travel in search of water and vegetation.

“Collaring these elephants will save the lives of both elephants and human populations in the long run. Using science we can understand where and how the elephants in this area move about, and we can use this information to help us prioritize human-elephant conflict interventions; as well as save the migratory routes that elephants in this area have been using for millennia,” said Steve Njumbi, Head of Programs - IFAW, East Africa.

More than 1,400 elephants live in the Amboseli eco system, spending 80 per cent of their time outside Amboseli National Park. The fitting of collars, conducted by a team of scientists, researchers and veterinarians from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) and the School for Field Studies (SFS), is the second this year. In February, six elephants – four males and two females – were collared at Olgulului, Mbirikani, Selengei and Kuku group ranches. The latest collaring has seen three females and one male fitted with the collars. With increasing human population, land under crop farming and settlements, the present migratory routes for elephants in the eco system have been reduced considerably. This calls for urgent measures to understand the migratory routes to develop measures to prevent human-elephant conflict.

The exercise aims at effectively equipping KWS to design intervention measures for human-elephant conflict mitigation as well as mount security operations.

The collars, which transmit a satellite and radio signal, will help map out the elephants’ migratory and dispersal routes - critical areas utilized by the elephants, and identify how expansively the elephants travel in search of water and food.

KWS, IFAW, and SFS have been tracking elephant populations around the Amboseli ecosystem to determine their needs for space and resources, and ultimately help mitigate human-elephant conflict. Over the years, an increasing human population and land use changes have meant that elephants have less and less space to use.

The exercise aims at effectively equipping KWS to design intervention measures for human-elephant conflict mitigation as well as mount security operations.

“Monitoring elephant movements in the Amboseli ecosystem is a fundamental prescription of Kenya’s national elephant conservation and management strategy and this scientific study will go a long way in generating accurate, almost real time and up to date information that is critical for managing and conserving elephants on one hand and enhancing local people’s livelihoods on the other,” said Dr. Charles Musyoki, the Head of Species Research Programs at KWS.

Earlier this year, IFAW, SFS and KWS announced a partnership that has scientists, researchers, and veterinarians tracking elephant populations around the Amboseli eco system to determine their needs for space and resources, and ultimately help prevent human-elephant conflict.

“Seen in human terms, the information we gather will give us an elephant’s eye view of optimum lifestyle standards for these giant creatures,” said IFAW’s Njumbi. “We will be able to make a case for the connection of their favored habitats by securing critical corridors and securing the areas that are essential for sustaining Amboseli’s rich wildlife heritage, especially the elephants.”

“Elephants need space and resources in order to be free, viable and to fulfill the flagship role they play in East Africa,” Prof. Moses Okello, Senior Director of The SFS Center for Wildlife Management Studies in Kenya and Tanzania.

“The IFAW- SFS-KWS partnership brings together our organizations' shared passion, vision, research, and management resources to help enhance the population, range and viability of the charismatic Amboseli elephant,” he said.

The IFAW-SFS-KWS study is part of IFAW’s Amboseli Project, which includes enhancing KWS’ law enforcement capabilities, leasing critical corridors and dispersal areas in community land, creating conservation awareness and local capacity for ecotourism ventures, and mitigating human-elephant conflict. The study is also a component of the SFS Center for Wildlife Management Studies Five Year Research Plan, or roadmap, which examines how land use and resource availability in the Amboseli ecosystem can be managed to foster the well-being of local communities as well as safeguarding biodiversity conservation.

Ends

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia