Written by Olga Kutchment
In April, a helicopter carrying a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences researcher and her collaborators hovered over an elephant herd in northern Botswana. A veterinarian tranquilized an elephant from the air. The team descended, checked that the animal was sleeping comfortably, and placed a collar the size of a hula-hoop around its neck. The collar will transmit the elephant’s GPS coordinates every hour for the next four years.
The team found this particular elephant near an agricultural region between the Okavango River Delta and the Kalahari Desert. Roughly 15,000 elephants walk through the area regularly: Botswana has the largest population of wild elephants in the world. While outsiders marvel at the elephants, locals can face enormous problems when the animals trample and raid crops. Clashes between elephants and farmers have ended in bloodshed on both sides.
The researchers want to help diffuse the conflict in this region.
“What makes our five-year program unique is the holistic approach that we are taking,” said Dr. Amanda Stronza, associate professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences. Stronza, an anthropologist, is one of three co-directors of the program Ecoexist.
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