(Tsavo, Kenya – 21 March 2011) –Nine elephants, six male and three female, in Tsavo East and West National Parks have now been collared in three days. Plans were to collar ten elephants but one of the collars failed to pick any signal from the satellite and was termed a flopped collar. The operation has been deemed fully successful after having no injury or mortality to both human and animals.
The nine elephants will be tracked to assist in the mapping out of the migratory corridors in the Parks and the buffer zones within the 43,000 square kilometres ecosystem. Their aim is to effectively equip the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to design intervention measures for human-elephant conflict mitigation as well as mount security operations for the pachyderms.
The collared elephants’ movements are already being monitored and this will continue for close to 20 months, as long as they retain the collars. The project is a partnership between the International Fund for Animal welfare (IFAW) and KWS. In addition to providing an on-site technical team, IFAW supplied the collars, satellite image receivers and software, and fuel for the helicopter, spotter plane and vehicles.
Speaking at the end of the exercise, IFAW Eastern Africa Regional Director, James Isiche lauded the team effort of the two organisations. “Collaring four elephants per day in Tsavo is no mean feat! We covered close to 1,000 kilometres on dirt roads with the team working tirelessly from the wee hours of the morning until late evening.
IFAW hopes that the management interventions by KWS will be rapid and positive in terms of repelling elephants to reduce conflict with communities around Tsavo, and boosting anti-poaching efforts. This is particularly so because of increasing cases of human-elephant conflict in the ecosystem and rising incidences of elephant poaching to fuel the illegal ivory trade,” added Isiche.
Five elephants were collared last year by the same team; two of the elephants have since died whilst the movement of the remaining three continues to be monitored. This brings to a total of 12 elephants currently being monitored. Before last year, the last collaring in Tsavo was done in 1972 using conventional collars that required manual tracking with radio transmitters.
The Tsavo ecosystem is critical for elephant conservation as it is home to the largest population of elephants and covers approximately four per cent of Kenya’s landmass. An aerial census conducted last year established 12,573 elephants, a 2% increase from 11,696 in 2008.
Common challenges facing Tsavo’s management are poaching for ivory, human-elephant conflict, human encroachment and habitat destruction, livestock incursions into the Parks, and the adverse effects of climate change such as severe droughts.
Since 2005, IFAW has partnered with KWS in Tsavo to enhance management operations in anti-poaching and law enforcement efforts, human-wildlife conflict mitigation and resolution, research, park infrastructural support, community conservation initiatives and education.
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, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebookand Twitter.
Editors:Broadcast-quality footage and still images of Tsavo Elephants collaring availableat www.ifawimages.com