Stories tagged global positioning system

Sep
15
2008

Are you tracking me?: GPS technology saved the life of an elephant in Africa last week and is being used extensively to track the migration patterns of many types of animals.
Are you tracking me?: GPS technology saved the life of an elephant in Africa last week and is being used extensively to track the migration patterns of many types of animals.Courtesy Lee R. Berger
GPS – global positioning systems – can do some amazing things. Even saving the life of an elephant.

Here’s an account of how a GPS unit spared an African elephant in Kenya from being slaughtered by irate farmers. Mountain Bull, which wears a GPS unit on around his neck, was noticed missing one day last week from his herd near Mount Kenya. Using the GPS tracking technology, his biologist observes tracked him down with a rogue pack of elephants ravaging the goodies of farm field nearby.

Efforts to rebuilt Africa’s elephant population have had the unintended consequence of putting more pressure on Kenyan agriculture. Elephant herds looking for easy food are more commonly heading to the farm field buffet.

The Kenyan Wildlife Services officials followed the GPS signal to find Mountain Bull in the sights of being exterminated by local farmers. Equipped with GPS tracking information showing that Mountain Bull had never been out looking for a farm-field free lunch before, they were able to talk the farmers into granting him mercy on this indiscretion.

While this is a pretty dramatic story of GPS coming to the aid of wildlife, biologists are using the technology in many other ways.
Integrating the GPS readings with Google Maps technology, researchers are able to map migration patterns and find out which locations are high traffic areas for different animals. Armed with that information, biologists can better target their efforts for habitat preservation and improving species numbers.

That’s all good news if you’re an African elephant; maybe not so good news if you’re a Kenyan farmer.