What is wildlife tracking and monitoring?
Africa has over 400 known species of endangered animals and the tracking and monitoring of these endangered species is a critical step in their conservation. Unfortunately, many African game reserves do not have the capacity to run effective wildlife conservation projects and require volunteers to ensure this vital component of conservation is carried-out. Wildlife Africa Conservation Team (Wildlife ACT) assists such game reserves based in Zululand, South Africa by providing free tracking and monitoring services.
Wildlife ACT is unique in that we actively advance conservation by initiating, implementing and managing monitoring projects on reserves which do not have existing monitoring programmes in place; or by taking over existing monitoring projects on reserves that can no longer fund or manage them.
Wildlife monitoring is essential for keeping track of animal movement patterns, habitat utilisation, population demographics, snaring and poaching incidents and breakouts. This valuable information, which Wildlife ACT and our volunteers gather, has numerous management applications, including the planning of successful introduction and removal strategies of priority wildlife species.
Why volunteers are needed for tracking and monitoring?
As a conservation volunteer, you and no more than 3 other people will act as the Wildlife ACT monitor’s direct assistant and aid him or her with the day to day activities of the project. This will give you the opportunity to: learn not only about these focal endangered species but also about many other aspects of the African Bushveld; and gain exclusive hands-on experience. Daily activities will incorporate the tracking and monitoring of endangered wildlife & animals which include the African Wild Dog, cheetah, Black Rhino and vulture while monitoring of elephant, buffalo, lion, hyena, leopard and White Rhino will also take place on a more ad hoc basis.
These tracking and monitoring activities begin with the locating of the animal which is achieved either by means of radio telemetry, spoor tracking or simply opportunistically. Then various important data is recorded, such as the GPS location, group composition, associations and behaviour. The next step is to photograph the animal as these photographic recordings are used in the development of an accurate identikit for identifying specific individuals. These activities are most often conducted from a 4×4 vehicle, driven by the Wildlife ACT monitor and take place during early mornings and late evenings, with a midday break taken in between monitoring sessions. This ‘break’ is usually filled-up carrying out your camp maintenance, cleaning and cooking responsibilities. Find out more about how to become a endangered species volunteer.
Depending on how long you stay with us and what time of the year it is, you might also get the opportunity to experience:
- Trapping and radio collaring of animals;
- Relocation and re-introduction of game;
- Identity tagging of animals;
- Night excursions to monitor nocturnal animals such as the hyena;
- Vulture counts and nest surveys;
- Bird ringing; or
- Alien plant control
It is however important to note that we work in a very dynamic environment, where we help out with various reserve management activities. Our movements and activities are regulated by the animals we work with and weather conditions, which of course we do not have control over!
To effectively conserve endangered species, we also need to understand how endangered species are impacted by priority species with high ecological impacts. These priority species include elephant, hyena, lion, leopard, white rhino and buffalo. On some of the reserves we work on, these animals are actively monitored, meaning we track them on a regular basis via our telemetry equipment, or by traditional tracking technique. We also use camera traps on some reserves. Those not tracked on a daily bases are monitored incidentally, meaning we record them only if we chance upon them.
The Wildlife Africa Conservation Team (Wildlife ACT) is a passionate, hands-on team. We need animal conservation volunteers to become a part of this team and contribute to the exciting and important game & wildlife conservation work we do. Click here to find out!
Currently our projects focus on three priority species:
Wildlife tracking – African Wild Dog Monitoring
The African Wild Dog, Lycaon pictus, is a carnivorous mammal of the Canidae family. They are the size of medium domestic dogs and weigh between 16-36 kg and measure 61-76cm high. The dogs differ from wolves and other dogs in that they have 4 toes instead of 5.
African Wild Dogs are one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores, Red Listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature ( IUCN) as “Endangered”.
Wildlife Tracking – Cheetah Monitoring
The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the fastest land animal in the world.The cheetah is smaller and leaner than other big cats, and unlike other big cats, the cheetah cannot roar. It can however, purr on inhale and exhale, much like domestic cats. Cheetahs are typically solitary animals. While males sometimes live with a small group of brothers from the same litter, females generally raise cubs by themselves for about a year.
The Cheetah is listed as “Vulnerable” on the CITES Endangered Species List.
Wildlife tracking – Black Rhino Monitoring
The Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) is distinguished from the White Rhino by a prehensile upper lip (hence the alternative name of hook-lipped rhino), which it uses to feed on twigs of woody plants and a variety of herbaceous plants. As solitary creatures, both male and female Rhinos establish home ranges, and can often be found wallowing in mud pools during the midday heat.
Black Rhinos are listed as “Critically Endangered” on the CITES Endangered Species List. Valued for their horns, they face a serious threat from poaching.