May 27, 2012

Satellites help save elephants

malaysian_elephant_2_lr.jpgTracking endangered elephants with GPS and satellite technology is helping to protect the endangered Malaysian elephant

Reduced from populations of thousands to less than fifteen hundred due mainly to forest loss and to make way for roads and settlements, the Malaysian elephant is also hunted for its tusks and is listed as endangered on the IUCN’s Red List. 


A new five year research project, led by Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz (ecologist and conservation expert) has just been funded to use GPS and satellite technology to study the movements and adaptations of the remaining elephants with a view to developing a long term strategy to protect them.  Some of the elephants will be fitted with GPS collars, though less intrusive techniques are also being considered.

“If we lose the elephants we lose a unique element of tropical ecosystems. When elephants walk they trample the soil and impact the forest in a way that no other animal does. When elephants eat, they modify the structure of vegetation, releasing plant parts that can be consumed by other herbivores. When elephants eat fruits, they disperse seeds. Ultimately, elephants create habitat heterogeneity and promote forest regeneration. All this will be lost and we will have a much more simplified ecosystem that is less resilient and has lost a lot of its diversity,” explained Dr Campos-Arceiz.

Source: Science Daily


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