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Monday, October 13, 2008

Text Messages From Dumbo

Game wardens and farmers in Kenya have been at odds over elephants that have been raiding villagers' crops, sometimes wiping out a half years worth of income at a time. Villagers used to beat pots and pans and light fires to ward off the massive animals and wardens where at times forced to put the animals down to save the lively hood of the farmers. A new project has collars with embedded cellphone SIM cards being placed on the perpetrators and virtual "geofences" created using a global positioning system. When an animal gets too close to the villages a text message is sent from the collar to the wardens who dispatch a team to divert the animals back to the conservancy. Though costly, the plan has worked and is changing the habits of the pachyderms. The technique is being employed in two Kenyan national conservancies. Besides stopping the raiding of crops the system also helps to track and understand the movement of the beasts and aids in the fight against poaching.

"Elephants are ranked as "near threatened" in the Red List, an index of vulnerable species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature." CNN/AP story here.