You probably know that both elephants and rhinos are endangered; it is estimated that more than 35,000 elephants a year are killed for their ivory. Meanwhile, rhinos are even worse off given their lower overall numbers, with one killed every six hours. If the current poaching rate continues they’ll both be extinct within 20 years.
An SAP partner since 1994, EPI-USE set up Elephants, Rhinos & People (ERP) to conserve and protect at-risk elephants and rhinos through community empowerment. The organization is a not-for-profit with a mission to go “Beyond Corporate Purpose” and make a difference in the world.
SAP supports this initiative with donations and SAP Cloud Platform, which is used for animal conservation initiatives. My colleague Andreas Elkeles and I got to experience this work first hand recently, moving 24 elephants from Ithala, a game reserve in South Africa, to Zinave National Park in Mozambique. Zinave is being restocked after the country’s protracted civil war.
This was truly a once in a lifetime experience for us. Having worked with EPI-USE for many years, it’s great to be able to link the business side of things with my personal passion, which is animal conservation. If you can work on a project like this, your energy level just sky-rockets.
We were not just bystanders, we were able to contribute to the protection of these amazing animals by checking the breathing and heart rates of these gentle giants a while they were sedated.
I experienced something like a human-elephant connection while close to a sedated elephant for the first time. Their enormity paired with their gentleness is incredible.
On the day of capture, the elephant herd was guided to an open area by a specially trained helicopter pilot and veterinarians tranquilized the animals with darts from the air. An expert team then sprang into action, lifting the sedated elephants by their feet, with a crane into the waiting vehicles.
Although this may seem brutal, it has proven the best method of moving the animals which often weigh over 2,000 kilograms. “Once you start engaging with elephants, you experience how vulnerable they actually are, they have so little means of protecting themselves,” says Danie Behr, group executive at EPI-USE.
Among their specific tasks, Andreas and I had to take special care protecting the elephants’ trunks, tails, and ears while they were being loaded unto the trucks. Andreas remembers his surprise, feeling how warm and soft their skin felt. “Elephants are at the risk of extinction, and for me, it is very satisfying to help make things better for them,” he says.
As soon as they were loaded into the waiting transport containers, they were given the tranquilizer anti-serum and woken up again. That evening the trucks left for Mozambique, and after a 30-hour trip along 1,250 kilometers of African dirt roads, and two border crossings, they all arrived safely in their new home. “It’s a very moving moment when you see the elephants run from the truck,” says Danie.
Some of the animals were tagged before release. That means that by using SAP Cloud Platform, the ERP project will be able to track and monitor the herd’s movements, further ensuring the elephants’ safety. SAP is seeking to expand the scope of its involvement with the project over time, including creating a new mobile app based on the cloud platform, and possibly using advanced analytics from SAP to anticipate the elephants’ movement and prevent poaching.
Core activities of the elephant rescue program:
- Rescue and treatment of elephants that have been injured through poaching, snares or natural causes
- Emergency response to elephants that have broken out of reserves and are at threat of being shot or hit by vehicles on public roads
- Relocation of elephants that could be culled due to elephant behavior
- Collaring of elephant populations for us to be able to monitor their movements and protect them more effectively
- Specialist advice
If you’d like to learn more or get involved as a volunteer, visit the ERP website at www.erp.ngo.