Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Tracking Silver Moon: Following the Movements of a Wild Elephant in Burma

Silver Moon, or Ngwe Thaw Dar in the language of Myanmar, is a female Asian elephant living in the muddy jungles of Myanmar's western hills. She is a member of a five-animal herd wandering the central part of Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park. In December 2002, Silver Moon became a vital participant in the effort to save the endangered Asian elephant when she became the first wild elephant in Myanmar to wear a satellite-telemetry collar.

In December, the Zoo's research team, including Chris Wemmer, Peter Leimgruber, Dan Kelly, and former Zoo Director Lucy Spelman, traveled to the Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park in Myanmar. They set out to capture and satellite-collar a wild elephant with the assistance of park warden U Ye Htut, Myanmar elephant veterinarian U Myo Than, and 15 park rangers.

The capture team conducted a strenuous search, found a herd of wild elephants, and started to follow them on foot. After six days of careful tracking they were able to dart the 20-year-old Silver Moon with anesthesia in order to capture her. A satellite collar was placed around her neck and adjusted to fit properly. Afterwards, Silver Moon awoke and continued on her way, now bearing the equipment necessary for researchers to follow her movements throughout the jungle.