Text Messaging: The New Way to Track Elephants

By Nina Bai | October 14, 2008 12:26 pm

elephantFarmers near the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya used to have to bang on pots and pans and wave burning sticks to keep elephants from destroying their crops. Now they rely on GPS and text messaging.

Kimani, a bull elephant who used to be a habitual farm raider, has been sporting a collar with GPS and a cell phone SIM card attached and maintained by the advocacy group Save the Elephants. Whenever he approaches the virtual “geofence” on the boundaries of the conservancy, a text message is sent to rangers who swiftly arrive to drive him back.

Using the text method, rangers have prevented potential human-elephant conflicts 15 times in the last two years, and Kimani now rarely approaches farms.


Ian Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, compares the animals to teenagers—reforming one habitual crop raider can change the habits of the whole herd.

The GPS system is also used to track the elephants’ migrations and prevent poaching. You can keep up with the elephants on Google Earth. Whether the elephants will start Twittering remains to be seen.

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Image: flickr/ Tambako the Jaguar


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