Written by: Andrew Aveley
Getting up close with the wildlife is something that not many safari guests get the opportunity to do. Jaci’s Lodges recently hosted a family who had sponsored a new collar for one of the elephants on the reserve, and they came to stay at the lodge to be part of the process of fitting it.
It was an icy morning, but the excitement of what lay ahead kept us all enthusiastic as we quickly had a hot cup of coffee. We had a fairly long drive to meet with Izzy, a Masters student in charge of the elephant research, and the helicopter pilot and vet. We were all briefed on the procedure, how the drug would be administered, what to expect and a brief outline of the purpose of the collar in the research process.
Radio collars allow researchers and managers to collect baseline data like home range sizes, daily movements and behavioural data of the elephants. By fitting these collars, researchers aim to reduce the impact on the elephant’s behaviour and maximise their detectability. Particularly in African elephant conservation, real-time monitoring with GPS collars have enabled researchers to monitor the safety of individual elephants and the communities that surround elephant habitat.
As Izzy walked us through this, the vet and pilot took off to go search for a viable subject. This was actually a very quick process, and the elephant was darted from the air, while we made our way in on the vehicle. Everything went according to plan, and the elephant went down safely.
The vets and assistants all moved in quickly to start the process of fitting the collar. While this was happening, we were shown some interesting points of the elephants, as well as allowed to feel things like the soft skin behind the ears, and the very coarse hair that covers the elephant.
After spending some time with the beautiful creature, and then headed back to the game viewer. The vet administered the antidote, and within a couple of minutes the elephant was back up on its feet and headed off.
We watched for a while as she was reunited with her herd and her young family. Over another warm coffee all the guests were given an opportunity to get much more information on Izzy’s studies and various observations she has made in her research.