Kenyan elephants have been texting local wildlife rangers warning them that they are heading towards the crops of neighboring villages! The elephants from the Ol Pejeta conservancy have been equipped with mobile phone SIM cards on their collars which automatically send text messages if they head towards local villages. The bull elephants, which are almost extinct, have previously raided villagers’ crops during the harvest, sometimes wiping out six months of income at a time.
As a result, the Kenyan Wildlife Service has reluctantly had to shoot five animals that have been particularly persistent. But now a virtual fence has been set up using a global positioning system that mirrors the boundaries of the conservatory 홈타이.
Kimani is one of the bull elephants with a SIM card. Whenever he approaches the virtual fence, his collar sends a text to rangers, who can head him off using spotlights to frighten him away. Kimani has been intercepted 15 times since the project began. Once almost a nightly raider, he last went near a farmer’s field four months ago.
The idea, drawn up by the Save the Elephants group, is now a huge relief to the small farmers who rely on their crops for food and cash for school fees.
31-year-old mother-of-two, Basila Mwasu, lives near the conservancy fence. Once an elephant stuck its trunk through a window into a room where her baby daughter was sleeping and the family had stored some corn. She was forced to beat it back with a burning stick. On another occasion, one of the elephants killed a neighbor who was defending his crop. “We had to go into town to tell the game (wardens) to chase the elephants away or we’re going to kill them all.” said Mwasu.
The founder of the Save the Elephants project, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, said the project is still in its infancy, and is not without problems. The collar batteries wear out every few years and with Ol Pejeta having five full-time staff and a standby vehicle to respond when a message flashes across a ranger’s screen, the project has been very expensive. It is however a great success, as the villagers now feel safe.