Who knew elephants could use text messaging? Actually, park rangers in Kenya have developed a ‘virtual fence‘ to separate rambunctious elephants from people:
OL PEJETA, Kenya -The text message from the elephant flashed across Richard Lesowapir’s screen: Kimani was heading for neighboring farms.
The huge bull elephant had a long history of raiding villagers’ crops during the harvest, sometimes wiping out six months of income at a time. But this time a mobile phone card inserted in his collar sent rangers a text message. Lesowapir, an armed guard and a driver arrived in a jeep bristling with spotlights to frighten Kimani back into the Ol Pejeta conservancy.
Kenya is the first country to try elephant texting as a way to protect both a growing human population and the wild animals that now have less room to roam….
So they placed a mobile phone SIM card in Kimani’s collar, then set up a virtual “geofence” using a global positioning system that mirrored the conservatory’s boundaries. Whenever Kimani approaches the virtual fence, his collar texts rangers.
They have intercepted Kimani 15 times since the project began. Once almost a nightly raider, he last went near a farmer’s field four months ago.
It’s a huge relief to the small farmers who rely on their crops for food and cash for school fees….
The elephants can be tracked through Google (nasdaq: GOOG – news – people ) Earth software, helping to map and conserve the corridors they use to move from one protected area to another. The tracking also helps prevent poaching, as rangers know where to deploy resources to guard valuable animals.
But the biggest bonus so far has been the drop in crop raiding. Douglas-Hamilton says elephants, like teenagers, learn from each other, so tracking and controlling one habitual crop raider can make a whole group change its habits.
Now if we could only do this with annoying people….