Kenyan Elephants Use Text Messaging
Kenyan Ranger Richard Lesowapir was enjoying a peaceful day, when he received a text message from Kimani. The African bull elephant was back to his old tricks - heading to raid the neighborhood farms. Richard jumped into his jeep and rushed to try frighten Kimani back to his home at the Ol Pejeta conservancy.
Of course it wasn't Kimani who actually typed the message, but an automatic message that was beeped to Richard's cell phone from a mobile phone card that has been inserted into the elephant's collar. The measure was necessary because of Kimani's tendencies to raid the local villages and ransack their crops. Now, every time he steps beyond certain boundaries, rangers' reel him back in.
Kenya is the first country to try this method in a quest to protect both, the ever-increasing human population and the wild animals, which have less room to move around freely, and are therefore encroaching on human territory.
The issue came to a head about two years ago, when the elephant raids got so severe that rangers had to kill five of them to protect the villagers. Kimani, who was one of the regulars in the group, would have also met the same fate, had it not been for the Save the Elephant Group, who came up with this solution, to see if they could change his stealing habits.
Using Google Earth software, the rangers created a virtual 'fence' around the conservancy. When Kimani approaches the virtual fence, a ranger immediately receives a text message. In the last two years, Kimani has tried to escape 15 times, with no success. While Kimani is the only elephant in his herd to be tagged, stopping him has had an enormous impact on lowering the number of village raids - for elephants tend to move together and imitate each other. Also, thanks to the Google Earth software, elephants around the park can be monitored more effectively against poachers.
Needless to say, the local villagers are thrilled to not have to worry about elephants eating up their livelihood, at least in the area Kimani lives. The project has been so successful that last month, another African bull called Mountain Bull, whose looting tendencies mimic Kimani's, was also fitted with a phone card.
Hopefully, now man and beast will be able to co-exist peacefully.