Park Rangers in Liwonde National Park in Malawi are for the first time able to see elephant locations every fifteen minutes. This is possible due to new Smart Parks technology providing Rangers with GPS-locations four times an hour. With this information, elephants can be better protected.

Elephant equipped with the new Smart Parks Elephant Collar ©African Parks

In cooperation with conservation organization African Parks, an elephant was recently equipped with a LoRaWAN® / GPS-sensor in Liwonde National Park, which has been managed by African Parks with the Government since 2015 in Malawi. This technology is energy-efficient so that the device has a long-life span and sends reliable and consistent location updates. One of the advantages of receiving real-time data locations allows for improved monitoring of these giant land mammals.

“We have invested in a LoRa®-network in Liwonde to enable the transmission of a high volume of location points for animals and assets being tracked in a very cost-effective way”, said Craig Reid, Park Manager of Liwonde for African Parks. “The elephant tracker will allow for better elephant management decisions as well as to ensure for improved security of these, and other, threatened species. We look forward to the completion of the development phase for the wildlife trackers as live time tracking allows management the luxury of good and up to date data upon which to make important security and human welfare decisions.”

Screenshot of the Smart Parks application showing the walking pattern of the elephant (some data altered for security reasons) © Smart Parks

The most important innovation of the Smart Parks collar is the very low energy consumption due to the use of LoRaWAN® and new GPS-chips. For comparison, current GPS elephant collars provide a location update about once per hour. They then send this information twice a day via satellite to the park Rangers. With this interval, the device can last approximately two to five years. According to calculations, the Smart Parks collar will last eight and a half years with an interval of every fifteen minutes. With an interval of once per hour, the collar could last for thirty years. This has a tremendous impact in reducing the costs both financially and to the animal associated with collaring.

Co-founder of Smart Parks, Tim van Dam: “This progress shows that we are getting closer to the ideal wildlife trackers, designing sensors that will outlive the animal. Our elephant tracker is a great step in that direction and has already shown in a short time that it makes an important difference for the rangers in their mission to protect elephants and take care of surrounding communities. And that’s the most important thing. ”

African Parks in Liwonde is looking to provide key species and individuals with Smart Parks sensors so that Rangers can better align their patrols and activities with the animals movements.

Collar being fitted to the elephant ©African Parks

About the elephant tracker
The Smart Parks elephant tracker is part of Smart Parks’ OpenCollar program where new sensors for animal tracking are designed with and by the community. After the rhino tracker, this is the second Open Source sensor by OpenCollar. A lion and pangolin tracker will follow shortly.

The biggest advantages of the new Smart Parks elephant tracker at a glance:
– Low energy consumption, making more GPS-location updates or a longer lifespan possible compared to current GPS trackers
– The GPS-interval and other settings can be changed remotely, which also makes real-time tracking for a certain period possible.
– Because the collar is more economical, less battery is also required, making the device lighter and less uncomfortable for the animal.
– The tracker is reusable; this has not yet been possible.
– Built-in LoRaWAN® via Satellite antenna and modulation (via Lacuna Space)
– Can be mounted on different collars, so also usable without the specific Smart Parks collar.

Contributed to the design of the elephant collar: IRNAS and Lacuna Space.

How do I get the Smart Parks collar?
Smart Parks intends to do a number of production rounds this year, so that everyone can take maximum advantage of a lower purchase price. Organizations can indicate their interest via