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Four elephants to be collared in Kenya to curb conflicts

NAIROBI, Nov. 27 — Wildlife conservationists plan to collar four elephants using satellite technology to help monitor movement, reduce conflict and beef up security operations in Kenya's world famous Amboseli Park.

The exercise which will be carried out on Dec. 3 and 4 by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). They will map the elephant's migratory routes within the Amboseli ecosystem and also establish the length and width of the elephant corridors with the ecosystem.

IFAW, East Africa Head of Programs Steve Njumbi said collaring these elephants will save the lives of both elephants and human population in the long run.

"Using science we can understand where and how the elephants in this area move about, and we can use this information to help us prioritize human elephant conflict interventions, as well as save the migratory routes that elephants in this area have been using for millennia," Njumbi said in a statement issued in Nairobi on Tuesday.

The conservationists will fit the four elephants with GPS satellite collars starting in the 8,797 square km Amboseli landscape to also determine whether migrating elephants follow rain-driven vegetation greenness and water points.

Wildlife officials say the Amboseli ecosystem is critical for elephant conservation as it is home to the largest population of elephants.

Located in the Rift Valley in Kenya, the Amboseli landscape includes the park, the Maasai community group ranches namely Olgulului-Olorarashi, Kimana, Mbirikani, Selengei, Kuku and Rombo.

These stretch to Mt Kilimanjaro, straddle the Kenya-Tanzania border and Chyulu Hills. Amboseli elephant population was estimated at 1,400 according to the last total aerial census conducted in 2012. Currently, Kenya has about 37,000 elephants.

IFAW said the two-day exercise will establish the distance of migrating elephants from farms and human settlements as well as show that rain-driven vegetation dynamics and water points influence the movement patterns of elephants.

The conservation group said the collared elephants' movements will be closely monitored for some time as long as they retain the collars.

"It is a fact that Amboseli's 1,400 elephants spend up to 80 percent of their time outside the national park. They roam in the surrounding Maasai group ranches, and are known to cross over into Tsavo West National Park in Kenya, and wander south over the border into Tanzania as far as Kilimanjaro National Park," said James Isiche, Director of IFAW East Africa.

The collared elephants, both male and female, will be monitored for about 20 months – as long as the collars are retained – and the data will be used to map out migratory routes, critical corridors and seasonal variations on habitat use.

In particular, there has been a marked increase of elephant poaching in the last 24 months which reached a crescendo with the massacre of a family of 12 elephants in a remote part of the Tsavo East National Park early this year.

Besides assisting scientists and conservation experts to establish the extent and how elephants use the Amboseli landscape, the collars will also enable KWS to design management intervention measures for conflict mitigation and management as well as enhance security operations. (PNA/Xinhua)

LAM/EBP

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