For decades, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientists and partners have traveled to Myanmar to study Asian elephants, a species threatened by poaching, habitat loss and human-elephant conflict. Only 30,000 to 50,000 of these animals remain in the wild, scattered throughout fragmented habitats across 13 countries in Asia.
Using satellite GPS collars, the scientists are tracking the movements of Myanmar’s wild elephants to better understand how they use their habitat and to inform conservation efforts.
Humans and elephants have coexisted in Asia for thousands of years, but how people interact with land and with elephants is changing. As a result, human-elephant conflict has becoming increasingly more common. Satellite GPS collars allow Smithsonian scientists to track elephant movement, so they can identify at-risk areas and offer strategies to minimize conflict.
Their research has also revealed a recent and troubling rise in poaching, which may be the most urgent threat to Myanmar’s wild elephants. Unlike African elephants, Asian elephants are poached for their skin, making males, females and calves equal targets.
WARNING: This video contains graphic images.