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

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A huge step forward in medical science, but we're not all the way there yet

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album