By Melissa Wray
In Greater Kruger National Park
"Her daughter Themeda often waits for her" and helps Eragrostis. On the same day that Striburus was fitted with a collar, an elephant known as Diney had her old satellite collar removed and a replacement GPS-cellphone collar was fitted. Diney was first collared in May 2004, when cellphone collars were not as common.
While both satellite and cellphone collars take GPS readings, the GPS points are sent via SMS with a cellphone collar and via an orbiting satellite with a GPS-satellite collar, making satellite collars far more expensive to operate.
However, satellite collars can be used in areas where there is no cellphone reception, and so one of Michelle's first elephants collared, known as Mac, has kept his satellite collar as he frequently spends a lot of time out of cellphone range.
The collaring of Striburus and Diney was filmed by an Italian film crew who are making a documentary on green hunting and needed footage of an elephant collar being fitted. The two cellphone collars fitted were funded through donations provided by Marlene McCay, who has been an important benefactor of the Save the Elephants research in South Africa.
Also in June this year the adult male elephant known to the researchers as Classic, because of his perfectly formed tusks, was green hunted under the supervision of vet Dr Peter Rogers. During the green hunt Classic's satellite collar was replaced with a cellphone collar funded by a donation from Wessa (Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa).
Classic was first collared at the same time as Diney, and the batteries in his first collar were overdue to run out. Funds from the green hunt will be used to help reserve management in the APNR.Michelle has two further cellphone collars on order through funds provided by Wessa, who were asked to help direct money left by benefactor Phil Gower towards worthy elephant research projects. Michelle hopes to deploy these collars later in the year to add two more elephants to her research project, whose ultimate aim is to collar a total of 30 elephants, 18 bulls and 12 cows, in order to monitor them for a ten-year period.This will give information on elephant movements and behaviour in the reserves bordering the Kruger National Park. Through the continuous monitoring of Mac since 2002, Michelle has been able to determine that every year when he comes into musth in early winter he makes an annual trek of hundreds of kilometres from Shingwedzi in Kruger down to the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve area, before returning to Shingwedzi at the end of the musth cycle, giving him an enormous home range. The annual service fees for Mac's satellite collar are also currently being sponsored by Wessa.