Why collar and track elephants?
Political boundaries, rapidly expanding human settlements, veterinary
fences, farming, poaching and civil conflict have contributed to
blocking century’s old elephant migration routes which are
essential to access food and water. Blocking elephant movements
has contributed to local overpopulation or overabundance of elephants
which is today regarded as a major conservation and management challenge
in southern Africa.
The simple reality is that elephant densities have risen so much
in Botswana that there is concern about their impacts on the landscape,
the viability of other species and the livelihoods and safety of
people living within the elephant range. Management measures to
control elephant numbers by culling have been discussed and proposed.
But are there other solutions to release this bottle neck?
We believe there is. Satellite collars on elephant are the best
way to locate migration paths, identifying wildlife corridors and
vacant habitats which could consequently alleviate the factors that
increase elephant numbers and their negative impact. The collars
do the long distance detective work, mapping a detailed GPS track
of elephant movements.
Studying the spatial ecology of elephants provides us with information
habitat needs. To date EWB has deployed state-of-the-art satellite
collars on more than 60 elephants in Botswana’s, Namibia and
Zambia, as well as along the Angolan border with Namibia. This project
has made the very first attempt to record and map elephant movements
across these international boundaries. Mapping large-scale movements
across four African countries provides a strong
visual catalyst for conservation and land use management.
Our study is unique in that it monitors elephant ranging patterns
both in and out of National Parks, across international boundaries,
and in habitats ranging from nearly desert to lush riverine environments.
The research program has been designed to monitor the movements
of multiple elephant herds in Southern Africa. The study area covers
close to 50,000 square miles. No other study in Africa covers such
a wide area.
Wildlife corridors across political
research is revealing that elephants are using old pathways, and
historical corridors to exploit "new lands”.
One example EWB has discovered pertains to Angola. The end of civil
conflict in Angola has provided the requisite security for elephants
to return to this war torn country. Elephants are trekking from
northern Botswana through the Caprivi Strip into southeast Angola,
where elephant numbers have increased from 36 in 2001 to over 8000
in 2007. The elephants have not returned to Botswana and are now
resident in Angola, despite the many unexploded landmines. This
“re-colonisation” is a natural dispersal which results
in a more dynamic ebb and flow of elephant numbers within a "natural"
There is now a critical urgency to conserve and safeguard these
newly identified corridors elephants are using to emigrate out of
Botswana. If these corridors are compromised and elephants do not
have safe passage across political boundaries then one of the most
viable and natural solutions to reduce Botswana’s high elephant
numbers will be seriously threatened.
Elephant home ranges
has shown that the elephants of northern Botswana have the largest
home ranges (24,828 km2) recorded for African elephants and for
the first time, have conclusively confirmed that the elephants of
northern Botswana are part of a large contiguous elephant population
encompassing western Zimbabwe, the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, southeast
Angola and southwest Zambia. These research findings have complimented
and contributed to delineating the area encompassing the largest
wilderness area, the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation
Area (KAZA TFCA.)
EWB is now recording the most variable home ranges ever reported
for African elephants, recording elephant home range sizes according
to age, sex, access to water, types of water sources, vegetation,
fences, and human disturbances.
Elephant Range Expansion Study
The elephant range in Botswana is not a static feature. As the elephant population
continues to grow, the northern Botswana elephant range is expanding rapidly.
Elephants are re-occupying areas from which they have been absent for many years.
During the past 15 years the elephant range in Botswana has expanded by 53%,
causing increasing concern about the impact of elephants on biodiversity, the
viability of other species and the livelihoods and safety of people living
within the elephant range The most striking expansion of elephant range has
occurred south towards the Makgadikgadi, and west of the Okavango Delta.
Elephants are now being seen as far south as the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
The movements of elephants, their social dynamics and impacts on people around
these periphery regions are currently limited. We aim to assess human-elephant
conflict cases that are occurring on the periphery of the elephant range and suggest
is a natural dispersal which results in a more dynamic ebb
and flow of elephant numbers …”