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Elephants now texting rangers

By Joshua S Hill Oct 13, 2008, 21:18 GMT

Elephants now texting rangers

Kenya has become the first country to install a mobile phone card in the collars of elephants, allowing rangers the ability to track the movements of the great beasts. EPA/JESUS DOMINGUEZ

Kenya has become the first country to install a mobile phone card in the collars of elephants, allowing rangers the ability to track the movements of the great beasts. This allows rangers the chance to intercept the animals before they can cause any damage to surrounding crops.

This technological step forward began two years ago, after Kenyan Wildlife Services had had to shoot five elephants who continued to raid nearby crops.

The Save the Elephants group wanted to find a way to break the elephants of this habit. So they installed mobile phone sim cards in collars around Kimani, a huge bull elephant who had a long history of crop-raiding. They then set up a virtual geofence, so that anytime Kimani began nearing a no-go area he would inadvertently send a text message to the rangers.

Since the project began rangers have intercepted Kimani 15 times. Kimani used to raid crops nightly, but now has not ventured near farmland for four months.

It is expensive work for the group, founded by Iain Douglas-Hamilton, with five full-time staff and a standby vehicle to respond to messages.

The elephants wearing these collars can also be tracked via Google Earth. The tracking helps prevent poaching, as well as helping to map and conserve the corridors that the elephants use to move from one protected area to another.

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