By Melissa Wray In Greater Kruger National ParkA fifth bull got his collar removed. The tracking collars locate the elephants using global positioning satellites and then send the elephants' positions via a simple cell phone to a website where the coordinates can be downloaded.Three of the elephants collared are part of a long-term project being run by Michelle and Steve Henley to determine the movements of elephants in the Klaserie, Timbavati and Umbabat Private Nature Reserves as well as their utilisation of the Kruger National Park (KNP).
Their study also looks at the interactions between individual animals, identified using identikits that Michelle has compiled over the years. One of the elephants that Michelle has been tracking for the last year, known as Benjy, had twisted his collar around until the GPS unit was upside down, flattening the batteries.
The collar was loosely fitted last November to allow the young bull growing space. Benjy spends most of his time on the grounds of Palabora Mining Company (PMC), where Michelle could not easily keep tabs on his social interactions, so the decision was taken not to replace the collar.
With the aid of Tim Paxton, PMC's security service superintendent, Cobus Raath removed Benjy's collar in record time to prevent any distress to the elephant, which frequently spends time close to the PMC buildings and cars.
With the addition of two bulls and a cow to her stable of collared elephants, and the removal of Benjy's collar, Michelle now has 10 elephants under digital surveillance, with their GPS locations being downloaded onto her computer regularly.