Yankari Collaring Season – Spring 2014
14 March 2014
In what might be a record for the shortest fieldwork period, we were able to collar an elephant in Nigeria’s Yankari Game Reserve!
We started the day working in two groups exploring different sectors of the Reserve. My group found some older tracks left behind by a small group of elephants; the other group, though, was luckier and found very recent tracks left by a much larger herd. After awhile, we decided to join the other group, as its chances to collar an elephant seemed greater.
We joined the group and hiked quickly for about 45 minutes. Eventually we caught up to the herd, which was eating in a heavily-vegetated area. A field assistant named Jonah joined me as we approached the elephant and tried to locate ourselves for a good shot. There weren’t many opportunities, but we didn’t have to hurry as the animals were still eating and hadn’t noticed us near them.
Finally, a large adult female took a couple of steps to the side, which gave me room to get a shot off. The shot was accurate and the animal went down in about seven minutes. As she went down, 50 or 60 of her herdmates surrounded her and would not let us get closer to her. The game guards fired 15 or 20 shots into the air and finally scared the elephants off.
We got the collar on without any problems, and are now analyzing the satellite data to see where the animal has gone since the event. She has headed mostly east at this point, though of course it will take months to establish her herd’s movement patterns both inside and outside the Reserve.
That ends the Spring 2014 collaring season in Yankari. I’ve been asked to assist with a wildlife relocation project nearby, so I’m going to move over to that project for the next two days. Since I don’t have any other responsibilities here, I’m going to change my flight and come home a few days early. Like I said, this might be the shortest field season ever!