Botswana, September 2021 The Timbo Afrika Foundation and Smart Parks created the first Smart Parks in Botswana back in April this year to improve the protection of the Central Tuli Game reserve wildlife and ecosystem. Last month, during a tightly organised operation between Timbo Afrika Foundation, its subsidiary Terra Conservation Operations and the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), two elephants were collared with the Smart Parks LoRaWAN® Elephant Collars just outside the Central Tuli Wilderness Area.

Prevention of human-wildlife conflicts

This an important step to resolve the human-wildlife conflicts in the Tuli area between local farmers and elephants thatroam outside the designated wilderness areas. After the successful construction of a double elephant proof fence prohibiting wildlife, mostly elephants, from raiding the crops from the local farmers, the last remaining elephants outside the wilderness area still had to be tracked and their movement patterns determined. By collaring a bull and a matriarch and determining their range, a final plan can be drawn up in order to guide them back to the wilderness area without harm to them or humans. Part of the fence is kept open allowing them to move through this wildlife corridor.

It was exiting to see the first signals and movements of the elephants on screen and actually see that their range is far more widespread than initially assumed.

The elephant collaring

Collaring includes identifying the right elephant, darting it with a sedative and fitting a collar around the elephant’s neck before the animal is revived. A veterinary team flies overhead in a helicopter in search of the elephant, the rest of the team follows in 4×4 vehicles. The elephant is sedated during the collaring and the team moves as quickly as possible. Sander Vissia, head of research at The Africa Experience, said: “It was an important day for us, including a lot of preparations beforehand in very good and close collaborations with DWNP. It was exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. Basically, all emotions you can feel, you feel on such a day. It is of course very impressive to be this close to a sleeping elephant, although I could not fully enjoy it, it is quite stressful to put a collar on under time pressure. I was so focused on the collar that I couldn’t enjoy the breathing of the animal, the trunk, the hairs, but it all went well, the collars are working, so it was a successful day.”

It is important to point out that the collaring of an elephant is a stressful event, for both the animal and the professionals involved and is not something to think lightly of. One of the big advantages of using LoRaWAN® technology is the sensors low energy consumption, which make more GPS-location updates and a longer lifespan possible. For comparison, current GPS elephant collars provide a location update about once per hour. With this interval, the device can last approximately two to five years. The Smart Parks collars will last eight and a half years with an interval of every fifteen minutes. With an interval of once per hour, the collars could last for thirty years. Meaning that an elephant will only be collared maybe once in its lifetime and not every few years. A significant improvement compared to standard practice GPS collars.

About the Timbo Foundation

This project was set up by the Timbo Afrika Foundation, sponsored by owner and philanthropist Albert Hartog. The Timbo Afrika Foundation runs entirely on the occupation of accommodations of the “Central Tuli Game Reserve” under the name “The Africa Experience”. All profits that are made from the accommodations, Koro River & Island Camp, Machangulo Beach Villa, flow directly back to nature management and conservation, realisation of wildlife corridors, anti-poaching activities, wildlife relocation and local entrepreneurship. In addition, the portfolio companies of Active Capital Company Amsterdam sponsor a percentage of their profitability. Albert Hartog is co-founder of Active Capital Company.

Wildlife management, protection of areas and animals is a very intensive task and much needed for a functioning ecosystem, the protection of natural habitats, and the livelihoods of local communities.

For this operation, the vet team and pilots were housed at Koro River Camp and all dedicated staff and vehicles were used from Koro River Camp to assist with the operation.

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