CSI Wildlife, Episode 4: Studying Elephants with GPS and Hair Analysis

elephants baby photo

Photo: Flickr, CC

CSI Wildlife Returns for a 4th episode!

In the old days, it was extremely hard to keep track of wild animals, and even if you could do it, the amount of information it gave you about their health could be limited. But now thanks to technology, researchers are keeping track of elephants in the Samburu region of northern Kenya, and by analyzing of their tail hairs, they can find out more about the giants' diet. Read on for more details.

elephant photo

Photo: Flickr, CC

From Discovery News:

Thure Cerling of the University of Utah and a team of researchers used Global Positioning System (GPS) collars to track movements of "the Royals," a family of elephants living in and around the Samburu and Buffalo Springs Natural Reserves in Kenya. The area is home to some 800 elephants, thanks to local rivers that provide a permanent source of water and vegetation.

Carbon locked away in trees and grasses has different isotopic signatures, and the team found that the hairs on the animals' tails preserved a detailed record of what they had eaten over the six-year period.

The study, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that changes in climate and habitat (mostly because of grazing) could threaten elephants by upsetting the delicate cycle that helps them reproduce, though the researchers also say that it's too soon to be certain of that.

Via Discovery News
Previous Episodes of CSI Wildlife
CSI Wildlife: DNA Forensics Used to Prevent Elephant Poaching
CSI Wildlife Part Two: 2 Eco-Crimes Unmasked by DNA Forensics
CSI Wildlife, Episode 3: Tiger Stripes Used to ID Poached Pelts

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