It is very difficult to track elephants in the rainforest of Malaysia due to thick vegetation and challenging terrain. The use of technology such as GPS collars has helped researchers understand more about elephant movement ecology and behaviour. This is very important and has real world application. For example, the use of GPS collars have helped us in assessing the impact of linear infrastructure on elephant movement and plan mitigation measures for reducing elephant-vehicle collisions.
Camera traps with the ability to capture photographs and videos have helped to advance research of wildlife tremendously in the tropics. For tiger research, camera traps are often used for population estimation and monitoring. For elephant research, we can use camera traps to study elephant diel activities in certain locations, like in plantations bordering forest reserves or wildlife corridors. Additionally, we can study their social demographics and observe their behaviour.
The use of bioacoustic devices can potentially help us detect Asian elephant vocalisations which includes rumbles and squeaks. Potentially, we can find out more about how elephants communicate with each other. There is potential to use bioacoustics to help support enforcement efforts as well, by using real-time technology to detect sounds of human intrusion such as gunshots or chainsaw sounds.
Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME) is developing an elephant early warning detection system prototype using elephant bioacoustics and camera (both sounds and visual) to detect elephant presences in the plantation. This is an on-going collaboration with the Department of Electrical Engineering and School of Computer Science at University of Nottingham Malaysia, and several international research groups.