Thursday, August 22, 2013

Identifying Elephants In Nature; Enumerating Their Numbers; Giving Them Voice & Protecting Their Lives

Animal Nomenclature

Kenya's Masai Mara Elephants: “Through research, education, conservation and advocacy we promote the protection and kinder treatment of elephants wherever they may be. As acknowledged experts on the natural behavior of elephants we offer insight to protect them and the authority to speak on their behalf,” ElephantVoices, the elephant-advocacy group says.
Photo Credit: ElephantVoices 
Source: NatGeo 

An article, by Christy Ulrich, in National Geographic says that there are now ways to identity particular elephants in the wild. The important thing to look at defining characteristics, which is is similar to what you would consider as important in any animal, including humans.These include, the article says, “sex, body size and shape, tusk configuration, and ear patterns.”

The elephant registry was started by biologist and National Geographic Explorer Joyce Poole and her husband, Peter Granli.

Ulrich writes:
Poole and her husband, ElephantVoices co-director Petter Granli, created the first online digital ID registry of elephants, which features Kenya’s Masai Mara elephant population. “Instead of having just a couple of scientists and research assistants monitor elephants,” Poole said, “we thought, well, why couldn’t you include everybody in on this?”
In 2011 they started Elephant Partners, a project that approaches conservation through citizen science and web technology. The database enables non-scientists visiting the reserve to help monitor and protect elephants by adding their observations via mobile app or website. (See “Elephants Communicate in Sophisticated Sign Language, Researchers Say.”)
Funded in part by National Geographic’s Northern European Fund, as well as the JRS Biodiversity Foundation and others, the project includes the Mara Elephant Who’s Whodatabase, containing 1,046 registered elephants, and the Mara Elephant Whereaboutsdatabase, which keeps track of all the sightings of elephants.
Elephant lovers visiting the Mara can assist the project by downloading the Mara EleApp, an Android-based app that automatically records the date, time, and location of an elephant sighting. Users can then respond to a series of queries about the sighting, such as: How many elephants? Is it in a family group or is it a bull? The app allows you to take a photo and asks you to enter the names of the elephants, if you know them. Registered users can upload their photographs and observations to the databases.
Elephants are not only beautiful and majestic creatures, but also highly intelligent and social animals. The database acts as an accounting system, giving scientists information on the number of elephants there are in the geographic region, but also other important data, such as the number that die, notably those killed illegally by poachers.

ElephantVoices, as the name implies, acts as an advocate for elephants, which it says is necessary in the face of many threats: “ElephantVoices uses knowledge acquired over decades to act as a voice for elephants. In the wild, ivory poaching, destruction of habitat, competition with people for diminishing resources, sport hunting, culling and capture all threaten the freedom and survival of elephants. In captivity their well being is affected by abusive practices and exploitation for commercial gain.”

You can read the rest of the article and view a video on elephant ID at [NatGeo]

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