Amarula lets you track elephants online

Thursday, 18 April, 2013
Amarula Cream
Ellie is somewhere between 25 and 30 years old and lives in the Kruger National Park. Now a new app developed on behalf of Amarula, allows anyone interested to watch her eating, snoozing, roaming and generally living her life.
She is one of six female elephants, all from matriarchal herds, who wear special collars that carry GPS devices as part of a field study conducted by the Amarula Elephant Research Programme (AERP) under the leadership of Prof Rob Slotow of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). The AERP, recognised as a global authority on African elephant behaviour, has been running since 2002 and is funded by the not-for-profit Amarula Trust.

The elephants are briefly darted by a vet with a short-acting sedative and once they have recovered, they rejoin their herds. They have been chosen from different herds in a range of areas to allow the researchers to make observations across several areas. 

By downloading the app from Facebook, visitors can track these collared elephants through images and video footage, almost as if they were with them in the wild, and also learn some very interesting facts about elephant behaviour.  

Says the brand's global spokesperson, Siobhan Thompson: "It's like entering a game park and making friends with your favourites. You can give them names you think suit their personalities. You can observe their similarities and their differences."

Users of the app can share information about the elephants on their Facebook Timeline, compare the ones they "adopt" to those chosen by their friends and create a whole community.

She said the online tracking tool was a novel and fun way to highlight the valuable work of the AERP, established to promote conservation of the African elephant in the wild and to facilitate the development of conservation management plans for key elephant populations. "We have made elephants the focus of Amarula's research programme as they take absolute delight in eating marula fruits."

The GPS devices worn by the elephants automatically record their movements at 30-minute intervals.  "This allows the researchers to monitor elephant activity," explains Thompson, "observing when and how they eat, sleep, turn and even the angles at which they turn. Knowing these details helps to understand how they are responding to the current climate, their fellow herd members and perhaps even elephants from other herds. They can be observed in their reaction to the competition for food, to fencing and other boundaries, to the impact of tourists and other local conditions. Watching gives many critical insights for developing conservation strategies." 

Amongst recent findings made by members of the research team, she said, were that elephants could be quite particular in choosing the trees on which to browse.  "Prof Slotow has explained to us that elephants are very adept at finding nutritious trees or nutritious patches within the mosaic of trees in the wild. The researchers have also been able to track how elephants feed as the seasons change, and why. They have ascertained that male and female elephants feed differently but further studies are needed to understand the ecological impact of these differences," Thompson said.

Visit the Amarula website ¦ or  join them on Facebook for more on Amarula.
Amarula Cream
Amarula Cream

more news