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Gabon put GPS trackers on its elephants to fight illegal poaching

Gabon put GPS trackers on its elephants to fight illegal poaching
[Photo: jinsu Park/Unsplash]

Gabon’s elephant population is dwindling, but a new tech-driven anti-poaching project may help slow the loss.

A 2017 Duke University-led study found that more than 25,000 elephants in Gabon’s Minkébé National Park may have been killed for their ivory between 2004 and 2014, contributing to drop in Gabon’s forest elephant population between 78% and 81%, all due to poaching. Now, the government is fighting back with “The Project to Combat Wildlife Crime and Ivory Trafficking in Gabon,” or more simply, “Elephant Project”, iAfrikan reports.

The program, which came about as part of the Debt Conversion Agreement between France and Gabon, will outfit elephants with GPS-tracking collars. This is not a style statement, of course, but will allow scientists to know where the elephants are so they can better target their anti-poaching efforts. So if elephants are all at a watering hole, there’s no reason to have anti-poaching teams in the forests. Not only will the GPS-collars track the elephants’ movements in order to fight poaching, but it will also give  researchers insight into elephant behavior. As of January 2018, 18 elephants have been outfitted with their new collars–eight elephants in the Ivindo National Park and 10 in the Mwagna National Park.

The idea seems to have been inspired by a similar program in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, where the World Wildlife Fund teamed up with the Kenyan Wildlife Service and Narok County Council to collar elephants and track their movements. Good ideas are worth sharing, especially when it saves elephants’ lives.

If you want to get involved in the fight to save elephants, you can donate collars here for about $120, or to the WWF or the Smithsonian’s efforts, and write your member of Congress because President Trump may have reversed his ban on importing elephant “trophies”.

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