Elephant Appeal: Where is your money going?

How your donations will help Space for Giants protect the elephants

Share
Related Topics

The helicopter hovers just above the trees as the bull elephant charges through scrubland below. Emerging into a clearing, the animal's pace momentarily slackens. The gunmen leaning out of the side of the chopper pulls the trigger.

“Got him,” the shooter shouts, signalling a direct hit. There is no sign of blood, however, or even of the animal being in pain. The only indication that a shot has been taken is a pink-topped dart in the elephant's side.

Gradually the animal's pace slackens and he begins to wander in ever-diminishing circles. Finally, after a quarter of an hour, he stops. The bull's ears flap two times and he then falls onto his right side, sending up a cloud of dust.

The helicopter - which had retreated to a distance far enough that the sound of the rotors would not upset the elephant - lands thirty feet away. From it run four occupants, all carrying medical and scientific equipment. None have the saw used by poachers to cut the front of an elephant's skull to get at the tusks, nor the bindings then used to wrap them together for transport.

This is not an instance of the animal being hunted for ivory, which the criminal gangs call 'white gold'. It is an operation being conducted to try to ensure the elephant's survival by hitting it with a tranquiliser dart so that a GPS tracker can be fitted and the animal's movements subsequently tracked.

“We need to know where the elephant goes from one location to another,” explains Matthew Mutinda, the wildlife vet who took the shot and is now overseeing the fitting of the GPS collar. “The more we know about where they go, the more we can protect them.”

Mr Mutinda has conducted dozens of operations such as this. It is an exercise not without risk. Later that day I met a female conservationist who had been on just such a collaring when an elephant, thinking a member of its herd was in danger, emerged from the bush and impaled her, resulting in months of medical treatment.

It is nevertheless a vital part of the work conducted by the charity we are supporting this Christmas, Space for Giants. It allows them to better understand the elephants that still roam the Laikipia plateau, north-west of Mount Kenya, and be able to develop the conservation strategies needed to ensure their continued survival.

The money donated through the generosity of Independent readers to our campaign this Christmas will focus primarily on developing four areas of poacher prevention in Africa.

Firstly, Space for Giants is in discussions to help establish a new state-of the-art wildlife conservancy in northern Kenya, a short distance north of where the GPS collaring operation I witnessed occurred. This would provide a fresh sanctuary for Africa's animals.

The charity also helps train and co-ordinate the wildlife rangers who each night go out to protect endangered wildlife. Thirdly it has developed strategies to build support in local communities for conservation work, and to emphasis the economic boon wildlife brings to an area.

The implementation of these programmes has already achieved a 64 per cent reduction in poaching where they are already underway. Now, with your help, it will be able to expand them into a far greater geographical area. In the coming weeks we at The Independent will focus on each of these funding areas in turn so you know exactly how all the money raised will be spent.

But before any of those three activities can effectively be undertaken, Space for Giants needs to know where the elephants are and what they are doing, which is why GPS tracking is key.

 Each of the collars fitted sends out an hourly update on the animal's location, enabling migrations and grazing habits to be established over periods of weeks and months. This programme is therefore the fourth plank of the organisation's conservation strategy.

“During the current crisis, GPS tracking of elephants has moved away from being a purely scientific task to being a key element of our anti-poaching work,” said Dr Max Graham, founder of Space for Giants. “If an elephant is killed, we will know exactly where and when. If an elephant is entering a danger zone, we can deploy anti-poaching teams.”

Each collar costs around £1500. It takes around twenty minutes for it to be fitted, the black transmitter held tight around the elephant's neck by a canvas belt. An antidote to the etorphine tranquiliser is then administered, and within minutes, the elephant is back on its feet.

From the air we watched as the darted bull elephant rose up and then lumbered back into the surrounding woodland, seemingly unaffected by its experience.

The GPS collar was already giving out readings. Back at Space for Giants' HQ a simple icon marching across a computer screen showed where this animal, now unknowingly watched and protected, roams the East African bush.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The leak of Jennifer Lawrence's nude photos isn't her fault. But try telling that to the internet's idiots

Grace Dent
US first lady Michelle Obama (2nd L) and her mother Marian Robinson (L) share a light moment with Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R) and his wife Peng Liyuan  

Europe now lags behind the US and China on climate change. It should take the lead once more

Joss Garman
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor