To collar an elephant in Limpopo National Park, Mozambique to gather information of elephant movement and migration to assist with wildlife corridor development and the help focus human-elephant mitigation efforts, for example to know where to effectively place bee-hive fences to prevent elephant crop raiding.
Operation date: 21st August 2021
The operational team for the day consisted of a Mozambique wildlife vet from Mozambique Wildlife Alliance – Dr Hugo Periera, a Limpopo National Park Ranger, Grant the helicopter Pilot flying a Robinson44 and the Wild Wonderful World team on the ground, including 3 people from IronMan4x4 Africa (filming). The elephant was located early that morning by air, moving within a small heard and identified as a well-aged bull to collar. Due to the remote nature of the reserve, there was no vehicle access so the helicopter team located the elephant and the vet darted the elephant from the helicopter (hanging out on a sling to get a good shot) and then the elephant was gently ushered using the helicopter into a safe open area.
The dart contained tranquilisers (drugs used were Thianial (a powerful opioid) and azaperone),which made the elephant sleepy and lie down. As soon as he was down, Grant dropped the ground team who rushed into the bush toward him. Afterwards, Grant moved the rest of the herd off using the helicopter to allow a safe area for the team to work, before flying back to HQ to collect the rest of the ground team.
On the ground with the elephant, the first thing the vet checked is that he went down safely and then they place a small stick in the tip of his trunk to keep it open which allows him to keep breathing nicely. Unfortunately in this case the elephant went down on his chest and due to limited people on the ground, he was too heavy to push over!! This is not necessarily a dangerous position but limits the amount oftime the elephant can be down due to pressure put on the lungs and can cause difficulty breathing. So the team had to act fast!
The vet got straight to work putting the collar on the elephant, with the GPS satellite boxon the top of the neck. Numbers on the collar helpedthe vet line it up correctly and a counterweight was placed on the collar to ensure the GPS box stays at the top (on the shoulders) of the elephant. The collar is fitted with growing room to spare (and it says on for 4 years), and is bolted into place with nuts and bolts. The excess collar is then cut off with a saw.
Unfortunately, due to the position he was sitting, there was no time for measurements and data to be collected as normally would be (including his size (body length, legs,feet, tusks etc), blood for DNA collection, as well as a dung sample and apiece of tail hair cut). Instead, as soon as the collar was fitted a reversal drug was injected into a vein in the ear which helps to wake the elephant up. It took about 7 minutes to work before the elephant started moving and then shortly afterwards stood up. He took a few minutes to gather his thoughts and work out what had just happened, before moving off back into the bush to find his herd again!
To watch a video of this collaring operation click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rknecVOIvXs
A huge thank you to our Wild Wondeful World safari guests and Conservation NPC donors - we wouldn't be able to do operations like this without your support! If you are interested in donating an elephant collar or supporting elephant conservation, please visit our shop for wildlife website: Donate an elephant collar