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WWF peeks into mysterious life of Borneo's pygmy elephants

The same satellite system used by the U.S. military to track vehicle convoys in Iraq is helping World Wildlife Fund shed light on the little-known world of pygmy elephants in Borneo.

This week marks the six-month anniversary of the first pygmy elephant's being captured and outfitted with a collar that can send GPS locations to WWF daily via satellite. Now, for the first time, the public can track the movements of the elephants online through an interactive web map at www.worldwildlife.org/borneomap.

"No one has ever studied pygmy elephants before, so everything we're learning is groundbreaking data," said Dr. Christy Williams, who leads WWF's Asian elephant conservation efforts and worked with experts to use commercial satellite technology to track Asian elephants for the first time. "We will be following these elephants for several years by satellite to identify their home ranges and working with the Malaysian government to conserve the most critical areas."

Five elephants have been collared by WWF and the Sabah, Malaysia, Wildlife Department, with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Among the preliminary findings from the study:

X The elephants' movements are noticeably affected by human activity. Elephants living in areas with the most human disturbance, such as logging and commercial agriculture, spend more time on the move than elephants in more remote areas. One of the collared elephants living near human activity, dubbed Bod Tai, covered a third more ground than did Nancy, who lives in more remote jungle. X Most of the elephants spend at least some of their time in palm oil plantations or near human habitation, which leads to conflict with people. In recent years, much of the elephants' habitat has been converted to tree plantations that produce palm oil, the leading export crop for Malaysia. X Each elephant belongs to a herd of 30-50 elephants but ofte
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Contact: Jan Vertefeuille
jan.vertefeuille@wwfus.org
202-861-8362
World Wildlife Fund
16-Dec-2005


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