Elephant Collaring in Mana Pools
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Bruce and Lisa Lawler, Margot Raggett and Mark and Miles Nolting, Bushlife Support Unit was able to collar an additional 5 elephants in Mana Pools – 3 bulls and 2 cows. The purpose of the elephant collaring is to identify the iconic bulls in a conservation effort to conserve the large tusk gene in the elephant population. Although legally, elephants with collars may still be hunted, the collars are a way of safeguarding these animals as they act as a deterrent to hunters. The cows are collared in order to monitor their movements for research purposes.
The elephants are collared by first shooting them with a fast acting nerve-blocking tranquiliser. This takes effect after 6 to 8 minutes. Once the elephant has gone down, a cloth covers their eyes to protect them from the sun and keep them calm. Water is continously poured on them to regulate their body temperature and keep them cool. Working quickly, the collar must be pulled around their neck and tightened. This process can be as quick as 18 minutes, or take as long as 38 minutes. In this collaring exercise, putting a collar on Impi, the very big elephant bull took the longest time as his head had to be physically lifted up in order to slip the collar around his neck – an enormous task. Once the collar is in place, the reversal injection is given to the elephant which immediately takes effect, and the elephant is fully awake within 4 – 5 minutes. The tranquiliser is well tolerated by the animals, and no ill-effect is caused at all.
To date 9 elephants have been collared in total, 7 bulls – Tusker, Boswell, Fred, Grumpy, Harry, Bruce, Chitake and Impi and 2 cows – Lisa and Mrs Tusker.
The entire collaring exercise was done in conjunction with National Parks and their Veterinary Services Wildlife Unit. To have such expert services on hand meant it was a lucky day for another elephant bull – Dennis the Menace. Dennis is actually a very relaxed elephant, but we noticed he was hobbling in pain by the collared bulls. He had a huge gash on the pad of his foot. After discussion with National Parks, they allowed us to tranquilise him too, administer an antibiotic and clean out the wound. We are happy to report he is on the mend already!