Individual registration involves identifying each elephant in a population based on its sex, age, and unique features and markings. A set of ID photos is taken of each adult elephant. Ideally, ID photos include the left profile, the right profile, and head-on with the ears extended. In addition, photographs of any other distinguishing marks, such as scar tissue, a damaged trunk, or a satellite collar, are taken. Although a full set of ID photos may also be taken of immature elephants, they are usually identified by sex and age in the context of their mothers.
Poole and Granli developed a digital database used to register elephants, which includes the key features that describe an elephant (e.g., estimated age, sex, family membership, left and right tusk configuration, left and right ear notches and tears, ear shape) and up to six ID photos. This information becomes an elephant's digital ID card.
To register a new elephant, the scientist must make sure that the elephant isn't already registered in the database. If the elephant is deemed "new," it is registered with a unique number and/or name. Once all individuals in the study area are registered, the total number of elephants registered is the population size.
Practice identifying elephants by using ElephantVoices's Features Guide.