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GPS tracking proposed for wild elephants in Vietnam’s Central Highlands

Wednesday, September 25, 2019, 10:07 GMT+7
GPS tracking proposed for wild elephants in Vietnam’s Central Highlands
A captive elephant wanders at the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center in the namesake Central Highlands province. Photo: Trung Tan / Tuoi Tre

A conservation center in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak said on Monday it has called on the provincial administration to place wild elephants found in the locality under a GPS (Global Positioning System) supervision system.

Installing tracking devices, such as GPS collars or chips, on the elephants will facilitate relevant studies of the animals, as well as mitigating conflicts between them and humans, the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center said in its proposition.

Different herds of elephants are known to exist in forests in Dak Lak.

However, cases of the wild animals trespassing and destroying crops of local people, and even attacking humans, have recently occurred with greater frequency, Huynh Trung Luan, director of the conservation center, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Monday afternoon.

Luan attributed the issue to deforestation, with locals having cleared woodland to make space for farming, affecting the habitat of the elephants.

As local people have been using different methods, some of which are harmful to the animals, to keep the elephants off their lands, Luan said it is crucial that measures are in place to protect the giant mammals.

The GPS tracking, which gives a very accurate reading of where an elephant is, allows scientists and conservationists to get a clear idea of where the tracked elephants are traveling to at what time of the year, and in what amount.

These pieces of information contribute to the protection of these animals and the accurate control over their herb sizes and general well-being.

A herd of wild elephants is pictured by forest rangers at Yok Don National Park in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak
A herd of wild elephants is pictured by forest rangers at Yok Don National Park in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak

Wild elephants in Dak Lak are presently being manually tracked using age-old practices such as tracing their spoor and droppings, according to Luan.

“Many countries have applied GPS tracking in elephant conservation and community protection so these tasks are quite easy for them,” Luan said.

The center did not say in the proposal how the GPS tracking may be funded.

However, Luan, the director, told Tuoi Tre that the World Wildlife Fund has committed a US$60,000 grant for wild elephant conservation in the area, implying that this fund will be earmarked for the project.

He added that money is not the biggest issue, as what matters even more is support from the government.

“We need approval from Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for the GPS tracking plan to be implemented,” he explained.

There are around 80-100 wild elephants in Dak Lak, distributing mostly at Yok Don National Park, and forest areas in the districts of Buon Don, Ea Sup, Ea H’leo and Cu M’gar, according to the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center.

The center also houses 43 captive elephants, which were implanted with microchips in 2017.

The microchips, which do not have GPS tracking, were placed mainly to manage the number of the elephants and monitor their health.

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