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UWA to track elephant movements using GPS collar tech

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) will effective next month, fit Global Positioning System-GPS radio collars to track the movement of elephants within the Kidepo Valley National Park conservation landscape.

The sophisticated collar technology is a lightweight belt that contains advanced GPS satellite tracking devices fixed on an elephant’s neck to allow the park authorities to monitor when and where individual animals are moving across the landscape in real-time.

The Chief Warden of Kidepo Valley National Park, Samuel Amanya says the initiative which is part of the numerous interventions being adopted to reduce human-wildlife conflicts also seeks to track and prevent the elephants from entering vicinities of human settlements and activities.

Amanya says that the Uganda Wildlife Authority in partnership with Northern Region Trust and Save the Elephants Kenya will collar a total of 15 female elephants that are presumed to be family flagships and will represent the entire large herds.

According to Amanya, once it’s understood that the animals are moving out of the conservancies and protected area, the system will alert the wildlife management and enforcement towards the rapid response of driving the elephants back to the game reserve.

Lawrence Nyangatom, a resident of Geremech village in Karenga district welcomes the initiative saying it will help mitigate potential conflicts with people living within the park borders since other interventions have always not been successful.

According to Lotek, previously proposed interventions including scaring the elephants with bees, installing electric fences and digging trenches around the boundaries of the park to keep marauding elephants from transgressing into the human landscape have failed.

Michael Obale, a resident of Gule parish in Orom sub county in Kitgum district says park management should fast-track the launch of the initiative beginning with stray elephants that have for the past months been in the sub counties of Orom East, Orom, Namukora and Mucwini.

The elephant collaring exercise has proved an effective measure to reduce the risk of human-elephant conflict but it also monitors the animals behaviour and habitat, which will benefit future scientific research and conservation efforts on their movements and migration patterns.

The technology also helps in detecting when an elephant becomes immobile or starts to move slowly which could indicate an injury, illness or poaching incident which alerts and allows authorities to react at a moment’s notice.

The collaring technology was in 2020 piloted on elephants in Murchison Falls National Park to assess and mitigate the negative development impact of the implementation of the Tilenga Oil and Gas Development Project on wildlife species.

The Wildlife Authority has also launched the use of a mobile app called Open Data Kit (ODK) to help report incidents of problem animals within the communities neighbouring the conservation areas of the National Park.

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