Tracking Endangered Elephants in Malaysia Using GPS Collars

Many of the stories that we feature on GPS Bites concern commercial and business GPS applications, but today we wanted to share with you a rather more heart-warming example of how GPS can be used to make the World a better place.  Researchers from the University of Nottingham and the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks are using GPS collars to track the movement of elephants on the Malay Peninsula.  This is a particularly important project because there are now fewer than half thousand of the animals left in the forest region, which itself has shrunk by 50% of its size due to de-forestation.

Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants

The project is called MEME (which stands for the Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants) and was started five years ago by Ahimsa Campo-Arceiz who is a conservationist and ecologist based in the region.   By tracking elephants with GPS, his team is able to understand better the impact of the Malaysian Government’s efforts to try to conserve the species.

The research so far has highlighted the fact that elephants play a very important part in the eco-system, and without them there will be dire consequences for the area.  Elephants help to disperse seeds as they walk through the forested areas and their walking habits also help to modify the structure of vegetation.  As the endangered elephants numbers start to reduce, then the structural integrity and biodiversity of the tropical forest of South-East Asia at risk.  The elephant species really is vital to forest regeneration and biodiversity.

GPS Collars will be on Fifty Elephants

Over the coming years the MEME team and University of Nottingham researchers are planning to equip up to fifty elephants with GPS tracking devices fitted to collars.

Tracking Elephants Using GPS

This will help them to better understand how the animals are responding to changes in their environment and habitat – in particular whether or not elephants are using the new wildlife corridors being developed by the government to help reduce human to elephant contact.  The research team use USB modems which let them track elephants even whilst out in the field.

For a more detailed analysis of these developments please visit the website who recently published an excellent article.  You can read that here: GPS Collars Keep Track of Wild Elephants.

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