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Asian Elephant Conservation

Overview

Elephants face almost certain extinction in nearly every place they exist. Only about 30,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild, scattered across fragmented habitats in 13 Asian countries. more

Satellite Tracking Technology

The Purpose
Finding an 8,000-pound animal in the forest is more difficult than it sounds. Satellite collars allow for accurate measurements of elephant movements. more
   
The Technology
The GPS device in the collar records the position of the elephant wearing it at set time intervals during the day. It then transmits this data to ARGOS weather satellites as they pass overhead. more

Satellite Tracking Research and Results

Tracking Silver Moon
In December 2002, Silver Moon became a vital participant in the effort to save the endangered Asian elephant as the first wild elephant in Myanmar to wear a satellite-telemetry collar. more

   

Tsunami
Using satellite collars, we were able to track the movements of two wild Asian elephants along the coast of Sri Lanka during the Asian tsunami on December 26, 2004. more

   
People-Elephant Conflict
People-elephant conflict is the most serious threat to the survival of wild Asian elephants. By monitoring the movement of a Sri Lankan elephant, researchers have been able to observe how he sneaks into farmers crops by night and retreats back into the forest by day. more
   
Translocation
In parts of Sri Lanka, some elephants have adapted to human presence by feeding in waste dumps. In an effort to protect people and elephants' health, one elephant was moved from the dump to a nearby forest. more

Population Assessments

Status of Myanmar's Elephants
In 2004, we worked with Myanmar's elephant experts to assess the status of wild elephants. Once thought to be a last stronghold, Myanmar's elephants have declined dramatically. more
   
Managing Wild Elephants
Joint teams of rangers and National Zoo researchers roamed the forests of Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park and Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary to study the condition of wild elephant populations. more
   
Population Viability
Elephants are an essential part of Asian culture and have been used as work animals for centuries. We used modeling to assess how maintaining herds of captive elephants affects the survival of wild elephants. more

Habitat Mapping

Shrinking Habitats in Myanmar
Myanmar has some of the largest undisturbed forests in Asia. Mapping forest areas and deforestation rates can give clues as to the causes of people-elephant conflict. more
   
Regional Conservation Assessment
Using digital maps and data sets for Asia, researchers at the lab demonstrate that only 55 percent of the species' range is suitable habitat. more