Case Study: Elephant Thermal Imaging

Colchester Zoo is supporting a project championed by ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and the Arribada Initiative using thermal cameras to identify the heat signature of elephants, spearheading the HEAT (Human-Elephant Alert Technologies) Project. The project aims to develop a low-cost camera system able to detect elephants 24/7, sending an alert to communities living around elephants so they can avoid any conflict situations.

African elephants at Colchester Zoo were used to train thermal imaging cameras to recognise the heat signatures of elephants in various contexts, particularly in comparison to the heat signatures of keepers. This occurred alongside a similar process taking place at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo with their Asian elephant herd.

These cameras are now being trialled in the field in Asia to determine the effectiveness of the cameras to recognise approaching elephants.

Colchester Zoo is conducting research on elephant behaviour, welfare and husbandry through a specific research programme highlighting areas of importance for captive elephant care. This enables us to investigate key areas of elephant management and to draw links between different topics covered by the research programme in order to enhance the care of our elephants.

Topics have been selected based on previous research into elephant care, individual welfare plans for our elephants and keeper observations. Topics include:

  • Exercise and activity levels
  • Sleep patterns and nocturnal behaviours
  • Affiliative behaviours within the herd

If you are a postgraduate student and are interested in conducting research on our elephants within our species-specific research programme, please contact

Click here to find out about other research involving our elephants!

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