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

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own