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RFID Goes on Safari

June 4, 2012—A few years ago, the 110-acre Dallas Zoo, in Texas, was in danger of losing Jenny, its 10,000-pound, 36-year-old elephant. "We were down to one elephant, we didn't have any self-sustaining groups, and the animal-rights people were knocking on our door to send her out to the wild," says Lynn Kramer, the zoo's deputy director for animal conservation and science. "That really galvanized the entire community—even the mayor—to help us fast-track the resources to develop this game-changing exhibit." 

Kramer is referring to
 Giants of the Savanna, an 11-acre habitat, open since May 2010, that now serves as home to five African elephants—all acquired from circuses, animal parks and private owners—as well as giraffes, zebras and other species. The relatively spacious environment was designed with input from Charles Foley, of the Tarangire Elephant Project, which studies the behavior of elephants in the wild in Tanzania. Still, he says, zoo officials "wanted to counteract negative criticism about animal welfare in zoos, by looking for indications of wellness and scientifically proving the elephants were getting good care. We know, for instance, that elephants may walk 50 miles a day in the wild, but they may only walk a few miles a day in most exhibits."

The 11-acre habitat at Giants of the Savanna serves as home to five African elephants—all acquired from circuses, animal parks and private owners.

In July 2011, the Dallas Zoo introduced the pilot version of an RFID-based system dubbed TangaTracker ("tanga" means "wander" in Swahili), to monitor the elephants' behavior and exercise patterns in real time, in the southern portion of the Giants of the Savanna exhibit. "We've proven the elephants are walking more here," Kramer states. "They've lost weight, they're thinner, their feet are in better shape, and they're not displaying the stereotypical behavior of head-bobbing that elephants do in older exhibits."

| Updated:2012.11.18    Source:rfid journal    Clicks:
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