Tweeting elephants - behind the scenes

Last week, for the very first time, four elephants joined Twitter to share their adventures via GPS collar. Find out how the data is collected behind the scenes.

Share
Related Topics

Early last week, for the very first time, four of Space for Giants’ collared elephants joined Twitter to share their daily adventures via their GPS collars. We hoped that people would take an interest in learning about elephant behaviour and the daily challenges they face in their shrinking habitats.

We had no idea how large the interest would be. On behalf of Kimani, Tyson, Evgeny and Carlos – thanks for following! 

Read on to find out more about how the elephants’ GPS collars work and the purpose they serve - other than tweeting.

At the moment Space for Giants have six elephants fitted with GPS/GSM collars. We tag elephants that are vulnerable to poaching or regularly stray into populated areas, break fences and raid crops. By keeping an eye on these elephants, we can better understand their movement patterns and help keep them safe.

How does the monitoring work in practice?

The collars we use have two innovative characteristics. Firstly they are programmed to record hourly positions, which are sent to our server via mobile phone network. When elephants are in mobile phone coverage, we can receive data on their whereabouts in real time. When the elephants are out of coverage, movement data is stored on their collar and then dumped to our server when the elephant comes back into range.

Secondly, and crucially, the collars are programmed to send a tailor-made message when the elephant approaches a designated landscape feature (called a “geo-fence”). This could be a fence or a watering hole or meeting another elephant.

Last year, Space for Giants also developed a ground breaking mobile-phone based platform to help conserve and manage wild elephants in Kenya. It displays the movements of our collared elephants in real time, including the messages triggered by geo-fences, described above.  Secondly it also allows scouts on the ground to enter information manually, for example the location of a fence-break, or where an elephant carcass has been found. This creates a regular flow of real time and contextual information that can be translated into feeds onto twitter for each elephant.

Through this technology, we can now monitor the location of elephants and human-elephant conflict across a 10,000km2 area by just by looking at a screen on our mobile phone.  We hope that the data and information we collect from this new app will help conservationist decision-making across many landscapes in the future.

What are we sharing on Twitter

The tweets cover the four elephants’ most significant movements on a weekly basis – this could be Kimani peacefully ambling around Meru National Park, or Carlos straying too close to smallholder farms. The tweets also include particular personal traits we have picked up from following the elephants over a long period of time – people will soon find that elephants aren’t so different from us humans! Any movement data we share is at least 48 hours old - to keep the elephants safe from poachers.

We hope that people will develop a connection to the four elephants, learn about their behaviours and get a real sense of how incredibly intelligent and social they are.  This connection is crucially important, if we are to reduce the demand for ivory in the future. We therefore hope that our tweeting elephants will be seen all across Asia, where demand for ivory is at its highest.

Follow Tyson, Kimani, Evgeny and Carlos @spaceforgiants #ElephantsLive

 

React Now

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

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes