Hoping to Help

Gonçalves and her team saw a mother and her injured calf. The calf was limping. Its leg had been caught in a snare. The baby needed treatment. Without it, it would not survive.

Gonçalves called for help. A vet flew in by helicopter. Sadly, the mother saw people as threats. She started tearing trees from the ground. She thrashed a large stick. Finally, she bolted into the brush with her wounded baby.

Four days later, the mother was spotted. She was alone. Gonçalves knew that the baby had not survived. Still, she was struck by how fiercely the mother had fought to protect her baby. Much like a human mother.

Everyone in the herd looks out for one another.

A matriarch might lead her family to the forest in the morning or lead them to water in the afternoon.

Room to Roam

Today, there are more than 650 elephants living in Gorongosa. Once the elephants roamed throughout the park. Now, they stay in the southern part. Gonçalves wonders. As the herds grow, which areas will they choose to live in? And what will happen when they come in contact with people?

Elephants need food and water. A matriarch might lead her herd to a village miles away. There, they snack on crops while the villagers sleep.

Big Trouble

The elephants are fearful of people. But people fear the elephants, too. No one wants an uninvited elephant destroying their crops!

Gonçalves wants people and elephants to live in harmony. To help, she keeps track of where the elephants travel. That means collaring them.

Collaring an elephant is hard to do. First, you have to find an elephant. A team often searches by helicopter. When the right elephant is found, the team goes into action.

Gonçalves searches for elephants by helicopter.

Getting a Signal

They fire a tranquilizer dart. This makes the elephant sleepy. Once the elephant is asleep, the team can land. “The events happen quickly,” Gonçalves says. “Everyone has a role.”

Some members of the team take measurements. Others help fit the collar around the elephant’s neck. Then they wait for the elephant to wake up and get back on her feet.

The team gets data from the collar every hour. In this way, they can monitor wherever the elephant goes.

a tranquilizer dart

Gonçalves and the team take samples from an elephant. They also put a collar on her.