GPS Collaring of Asian Elephants in Southern Bhutan

Photo 1: Collared Female Elephant
Photo 1: Collared Female Elephant

In an attempt to better understand the conflict surrounding elephants and farmers in Southern Bhutan, the Wildlife Conservation Division (WCD) and the Samtse Forest Division has successfully collared two Asian Elephants Elephas maximus indicus in the adjoining areas of Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary. The makhna (tuskless male) was collared on March 16 and the female from a different herd on March 18 by fitting with satellite (GPS) collars using both iridium and VHF tracking mode. This scheme is part of a larger effort to understand and manage human wildlife conflicts where various schemes already in place include solar electric fencing, habitat improvement, and awareness meetings.

The first phase of this project is supported by the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) and the Joint Support Program of UNDP and DANIDA. The project will be closely co-ordinated by the Wildlife Conservation Division in close collaboration with field divisions and park offices. Six elephants will be collared along the southern border of Bhutan within this year.

Collaring in Process on the Male Elephant
Picture 2: Collaring in Process on the Male Elephant

The lead for this project is Sonam Wangdi, Chief Forestry Officer of the Samtse Forest Division and Tshering Zam of Wildlife Conservation Division who is the Program Coordinator of the Elephant Conservation Program in WCD, and technically supported by Professor Raman Sukumar from Indian Institute of Science and Dr. Muti Roy of the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation based in Bangalore, India. In addition to the above, the fieldwork was participated in by officials from Wildlife Conservation Division including Chief Sonam Wangchuk, Kuenzang Gyeltshen, Dr. Kinley Choden and the Range Staffs of Bhangtar Forest Range under the Samdrup Jongkhar Forest Division.

Besides studying the seasonality of movements, this project is also expected to provide information on habitat use, dietary patterns and its home range in the plains and in the hills. The study is the first of its kind on elephants in Bhutan and will help a lot in managing human elephant conflict and conserving the elephant population in Bhutan.

Reported by: Wildlife Conservation Division and Samtse Forest Division.
Photos taken by Sonam Wangchuk & Sonam Wangdi 

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