Friday, October 24, 2008

Of Course Elephants Text

The next time you feel like complaining about how hard it is to text using those tiny little buttons on your cell phone, just remember that somewhere in Kenya an elephant is probably texting right now. You don't hear THEM complaining about big feet, little buttons. What? Elephants text?

Of course elephants send text messages. You expect them to use push to talk? Actually, elephants don't really need to put five other elephants in their favorites list. They can communicate audibly using low frequencies called infrasonics that carry for miles. It's when they need to tell us something that the cell phones get activated.

Don't expect to catch site of an elephant whipping out an iPhone when you are on safari. The text messaging they do is via some very specialized equipment and at our request, not theirs. But it works to everyone's benefit. In this case, the cellular technology has been pressed into service to make sure that elephants and humans can live in harmony.

The idea is to let wildlife rangers know when elephants are going after farmer's crops, so they can be led back to their protected areas before any violence ensues. Even in a land as vast and rural as Africa, there just aren't enough wild spaces left so that people and elephants will naturally keep their distance. As a result of human settlements encroaching more and more on what was once wilderness area, farmers and elephants are competing for the same swaths of land. Elephants go after the farmer's cash crops. Farmer's defend what they have worked so hard to produce and things get violent. Sometimes the elephants win and there are fewer farmers. Sometimes the farmers win and there are a few less elephants.

This is what the wireless notification system has been designed to prevent. The way it works is that a specially designed mobile transmitter is built into a collar that the elephant wears. Inside the electronics box is a mobile phone SIM card, GPS receiver, wireless transmitter and battery pack. A virtual fence is programmed into the system so that when an elephant approaches the limit of the Ol Pejeta conservancy, a warning message is transmitted to park rangers. They can then intercept the wayward elephant before there is a problem.

It works! By redirecting elephants back to their protected territory, crop raiding has been reduced significantly. The elephants also learn where their new territorial limits are and share that information with the herd. In a way, it's like invisible dog fencing but for a much, much larger animal and without anyone getting a shock. Just text messages.

Now if YOU want to send text messages, you'll need a more human scale phone. You'll find many special offers, including free phones, at Cell Phone Plans Finder.

If you want to help protect elephants in their habitat, visit Save The Elephants. In the United States, former circus and zoo elephants are protected and nurtured at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and the Performing Animal Wildlife Sanctuary (PAWS).

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