Saving lives with WhatsApp

Our teams on the ground use their passion and ingenuity to find solutions that save lives.

Elephant Family’s human-elephant conflict work in Southern India uses text messages, beacons and signboards to alert people to the presence of elephants in their area so they can avoid conflict.

Whilst this has noticeably improved human-elephant relationships in the Animalai Hills, at times there can be technical difficulties. One such example happened recently when bulk text messaging system went down due to technical issues, but owing to their passion for protecting pachyderms and their resilience under pressure our teams on the ground were able to react and adapt quickly to resolve the situation. Despite many of the team being affected by COVID-19, they quickly switched to providing information through WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal instead, as well as posting on relevant social media groups and forwarding messages through different forums.

Anand’s team received dozens of calls during the week from villagers, concerned that they could not carry out their daily farming activities or other essential journeys without the real-time information about elephants to keep them safe. The immediacy and level of response  highlights how well-ingrained this project has become to the local population and their lives. These early warning systems are integral to daily life.

Thankfully the system was fixed and is now up and running at full capacity again, but the reaction during that short period of time has shown us that our work with the Nature Conservation Foundation is essential to protecting both people and elephants.

Beyond technology, the pandemic has also impacted field work owing to restrictions on travel. Nevertheless, the team continues to track elephants, as this is one activity that has not been affected by restrictions and is so vital to ensuring human-elephant conflict is avoided. This tracking provides important data which helps scientists understand the movements of elephants in the area in order to predict potential conflict with humans.

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