Tracks of Giants

Tracks of Giants collar deployed on jumbo

An elephant collar which travelled with the Tracks of Giants team throughout the 5,000 kilometre, 20 week journey through six countries earlier this year has been deployed on an elephant along the Kwando River in the heart of the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) where elephants are known to move across international borders.

The epic Tracks of Giants expedition culminated in the handover of the GPS-linked elephant collar to Botswana-based non-profit organisation, Elephants Without Borders (EWB) on Monday, September 03 this year. The collar was carried by the Tracks of Giants team throughout the journey in order to help raise awareness of the need for corridor and transfrontier park conservation.

Dr. Mike Chase collaring "Tracks" the elephant

In early October this year, Elephants Without Borders (EWB) conducted a large-scale field operation, deploying collars on 20 elephants and three giraffe in northern Botswana. During the exercise, the Tracks of Giants collar was successfully fitted to a large, healthy bull which is thought to have a wide range throughout the area. The bull, now known as “Tracks”, was sighted amongst a herd of 17 mature bulls and was darted from a helicopter. “He went down in a perfect location under a large acacia tree, so he was well shaded and kept cool. After the collar was attached, the tranquiliser was reversed and he awoke in a few short minutes, took a moment, slowly turned and strolled off to meet his herd. The entire exercise went very smoothly and quickly,” says Kelly Landen of EWB.

Information from all of the elephant collars deployed will be collated by EWB for its research into “population status and spatial ecology of large herbivores in northern Botswana”. The research aims at providing new and valuable information on the population status and movements of large herbivores throughout northern Botswana. It will culminate in locating and conserving the key habitats and migration corridors that wildlife need to survive.

“We’re very proud to have been part of the Tracks of Giants expedition and are looking forward to working with the team on the continuing adventure,” says Landen. She and Dr Mike Chase guided the Tracks of Giants team through Chobe and the Linyanti Floodplain in Botswana during the middle leg of the expedition.

According to specialist wilderness guide, photojournalist and naturalist Ian Michler, who was a core member of the Tracks of Giants team, “EWB was my Giant of the trip. The last few days of the kayak sector in Botswana ended in a multitude of magnificent elephant sightings – family herds or groups of bulls around almost every bend!”

“Now that the expedition component of Tracks of Giants is done, the most significant challenge is about to begin,” says Michler.

In the months to come, the two core members of the team, Ian Michler and Ian McCallum will be processing and laying out all the conservation, wildlife management, community and ecotourism issues encountered along the route. This will culminate in a book and documentary film which is anticipated to be ready in time for the next World Wilderness Congress in October, 2013. The data gathered from the deployed collar, and the team’s interviews with EWB will be a fundamental part of the final products.

The collar deployment was supported by The Wilderness Foundation (SA) and The WILD Foundation (USA), NGO sponsors of Tracks of Giants expedition.

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