Elephant collaring

As part of the elephant contraception program, a monitoring project was launched to test if contraception of females had any effect on social behavior, herd structures, bull associations or movements. We do not expect to see any effects, as no effects were previously observed in other reserves that have been doing contraception for a number of years now.

In order to make the monitoring program as efficient as possible and to get the maximum amount of sightings, it was necessary to collar some elephants.

One cow in each of the herds was collared, except for one herd which couldn’t be found on the day of the collaring. Two cows were fitted with GPS/ cellular collars, but unfortunately, it appears as if the cell phone coverage on the reserve is not sufficient to get regular data from the collars. That leaves us with two options; the collars will either have to be replaced with normal VHF collars, or cellular collars with stronger receivers.

Dr. Douw Grobler and JJ van Altema from Catchco carried out the darting of the cows. The conditions on the day of collaring were perfect, and even the elephants cooperated by being in areas that were easily accessible by vehicle. The elephants were darted from a helicopter, and once they were down a ground crew moved in to put the collar on.

The helicopter stayed in the area to make sure the other elephant didn’t return and, once it was safe, moved away to search for the other herds. Once the collars were securely fitted, the antidote was administered, and the cows joined their herds within a couple of hours.