Oxford Tracking Group

ABRG, Department of Zoology, Oxford University

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Elephant Research

Fundamental to our research is understanding individual elephants. Since 1995 our research team in Samburu National Reserve have photographed and identified over 900 individual elephants and now have intimate and detailed family histories of each family and bond group. Individual and family interactions vary throughout the seasons and groups can leave the reserve boundaries for months at a time. Learning where they are migrating to, and what resources they are seeking, is fundamental to understanding how we can protect elephants in a wide and complex national ecosystem.

Understanding elephant movements is helped by the use of the latest technology to collar and track elephants remotely. We develop, test, and deploy a variety of tracking collars all capable of recording GPS positions of each individual elephant as they move across the landscape. More recently we have started to deploy sensitive 3-axle accelerometers to our collars to help us record micro-movements of each elephant on a finer scale than anything ever tried before on wild pachyderms. Our collars are physically complex, expensive and require huge data programming and upkeep to provide the quality of data that we are analysing presently.

Over the years this tracking data has helped us to identify migration corridors, dominance hierarchy behaviour, dry/wet season feeding areas, poaching hotspots and specific human-elephant conflict (HEC) zones (please refer to Save the Elephants for more details). Identifying HEC hotspots has enabled us to focus our more grassroots program,The Elephants and Bees Project, on the worst affected communities who suffer from elephants crop-raiding their farms.

The project applies the discovery that elephants will avoid bee sounds and hives (see publications) to develop a unique elephant deterrent system to keep elephants out of human habitat. The development and testing of a novel beehive fence is helping to deter elephants from entering farmland as well as providing honey and bee products to poor rural farmers. This type of innovative research is fundamental to our mission to find ways to help elephants and man co-exist better.




Recent News


Producing Artificial Rhino Horn Prof. Fritz Vollrath and colleagues from the Fudan University in China have discovered a means to produce artificial Rhino horns using horse hair. Hopes are that this product may undermine the illegal market for rhino horn, demistify the properties of rhino horn and ultimately assist wildlife conservation. Article

San Diego Zoo Global honor two elephant researchers San Diego Zoo Global honored the work of two leading field biologists and researches Thursday who have dedicated their lives to saving elephants Article

Electronics Engineer for Elephant Tracking The Save the Elephants radio-tracking team seeks electronic engineer to work in-house on the next generation of high-level radio-collars

For details see here

Five ways to scare off elephants Living amid wild animals is not easy, especially when the animal in your backyard is a large elephant Full Article

Elephant poaching deaths reach tipping point in Africa Africa's elephants have reached a tipping point: more are being killed each year than are being born, a study says. Full Article

How locals and conservationists saved the elephants of Mali amidst conflict and poverty At a time when Africa's elephants are facing a relentless poaching crisis - to the tune of over 20,000 dead every year - one community has managed to safeguard their elephants in the most unlikely of places: Mali.Full Article

Do elephants call "human!"? New collaborative research shows that African elephant alarm calls distinguish between threats from humans and bees. Full Article

Li BingBing's mini-documentary on elephants and ivory poaching To mark World Wildlife Day we have launched a short film with UNEP's Goodwill Ambassador Li BingBing to share the wonder of elephants and spread the message of the horrific impacts of poaching. Full Article

Michelle Henley wins the 2013 WESSA National Award For her extensive contribution to the understanding of elephant migratory behaviour and for the use of this information towards insights into their environmental impact and towards anti-poaching efforts. Full Article

Protecting Mali's Elephants Until 2012 the Gourma elephants escaped the ivory poaching crisis that is sweeping across Africa. In 2012 three were killed, despite the poor quality of their tusks. Full Article

Yao Ming Says No to Ivory and Rhino Horn
Former NBA star and Chinese icon, Yao Ming, launches a major public awareness campaign targeting consumption of ivory and rhino horn in China in partnership with WildAid, Save the Elephants, African Wildlife Foundation, and the Yao Ming Foundation. Full Article

Mali's Fragile Elephant Population at Risk
Due to the recent surge of violence in Mali, led by Extremists in the North, the outlook for Mali's Gourma Elephants looks increasingly concerning. Full Article

Kenya: Elephants Risk Extinction Due to Poaching
An interview with Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton on the threat to elephants by increased poaching due to the increased demand for ivory. Full Article

Conserving large carnivores: dollars and fence
A new study on the conservation of lions demonstrating the a clear benefit to lion population by the use of fencing to protect both people and wildlife. Full Article

From Elephants’ Mouths, an Illicit Trail to China
"The Chinese hold the key to the elephants' future. If things continue the way they are, many countries could lose their elephants altogether."
Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants. Full Article

Blood Ivory
An Op-Ed in the New York Times about the continued increase in elephants killed for their ivory to fuel China's growing demand. Full Article

Ivory Poaching Threatens ‘Elephant Memory’
The large number of mature and experienced African elephants being killed illegally for their ivory is exposing young surviving elephants to a higher risk of mortality from predation and other risks, wildlife conservationists said today. Full Article

New report confirms ‘major surge’ in ivory smuggling in 2011
Illegal trade in ivory is at its highest levels in nearly two decades, and 2011 witnessed a ‘major surge’, according to a report released by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Full Article

Violence in Mali Threatening Survival of Endangered Elephants
University of British Columbia and Oxford University researchers have revealed the secrets of survival of an endangered population of African elephants in the unforgiving Sahara desert. The animals have the largest migration among elephants, the study finds, but recent violence in Mali may now be putting them at risk. Full article 

New Book by Clive Hambler & Susan Canney: Conservation
Further information here. Until 31st December, 20% discount on order here 

Mali mobilizes to protect the desert elephants
Despite the significant unrest and political turmoil in Mali over the past 7 months, WILD & the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) are glad to report that our Mali Elephant Project (MEP) has continued to work with the local communities and create a multifaceted response to protect the desert elephants in conjunction with the Mali government. Full Article

Dr. Lucy King talks about her research on BBC radio
BBC radio interview about an alarm call elephants produce when threatened by bees. Listen here

Conservationists use new tactics in the battle with poachers
Chinese basketball star Yao Ming is heading an ambitious new initiative to inform affluent Chinese of the effect increased demand for ivory in China is having on elephant numbers. Full Article


Media Archive


Copyright 2007 OTG last updated 7 November, 2012