MPALA WILDLIFE FOUNDATION via Crowdrise
November 05, 2010
BENEFITING: MPALA WILDLIFE FOUNDATION
Mpala lies at the crossroads of important corridors for ~7,000 elephants that make an annual trek across Laikipia. We strive to provide a safe haven for these travelers and those elephants who call Mpala “home”.
Identifying elephants isn’t hard and with a little practice, it can be like walking into a party and quickly figuring out whether your friends are in the crowd. Like people, elephants are all different. Tusks can be long and straight or short and stumpy. Ears – although all big – have collections of tears and holes that help tell Joe from Sam or Betty from Margot.
By keeping track of who’s who we can answer important questions like ‘How many elephants does Mpala support?’, ‘Are their numbers increasing or decreasing?’, ‘What habitats do they like best or can’t live without?’, and ‘What are the patterns of coming and going?’ Answers to all those questions are critical to help us conserve elephants and to monitor our success or failure in attempting to do so.
Our scouts go out daily in search of elephants to snap their portraits. You don’t need to be a professional photographer to capture the distinguishing features of an individual elephant, but getting close enough for a clear shot can sometimes be a challenge. Mothers can be protective and bulls ornery when full of testosterone, so every encounter with an elephant is treated with caution.
All photos are filed on computers and compared against our database of pictures to identify each individual. From these pictures, we build portfolios of family histories, movement patterns and preferred habitats.
We are developing ways to make our database available to everyone on the Web so locals and tourists alike can upload their elephant photos and identify which individual they’ve seen. In return, we can share what we know about the elephant’s family, its favorite haunts, and personality. This way we can keep track elephants beyond Mpala and gain a better understanding of their movements, their needs and where they might be most at risk.
We need your help to:
Keep our Land Rovers running ~ $5000/yr
Support our Kenyan research assistants - $250/mon
Hire somebody to create our online elephant database - $10,000