Busy in the bush: How we tracked the animals

29.06.2014 | The sessions to monitor the radio-collared animals as a volunteer with Wildlife ACT take place around sunrise (about 5.30-10.30h) and sunset (about 16.30-20.30h). As it is pretty cold on the back of an open vehicle in the early morning and after sunset, we first had to make sure that we were wrapped in sufficient layers of clothing to keep us warm enough. For me, the six layers you can see in the photo were fine.

Usually, we went to a vista point in the morning  and used the radio telemetry to track the radio-collared animals to find out their locations. We checked signals for several lions, a cheetah, elephants and several African painted dogs to get an overview. Then we drove closer to the located areas and tried to get a real sighting of them to make sure they were well. Wildlife ACT monitors record three different kinds of sightings: „A“ means to see them, „B“ means to recognise them with your other senses e.g. hear or smell them, and „C“ means to locate them via triangulation using the radio telemetry.

Tracking gear

As you can see in the pictures the gear we used to track the animals consists of an antenna and a receiver with a channel for every animal. Vertical antenna receives long-range and horizontal short-range signals. The closer you get to the animal the more you’ll hear the beep from all directions which is sometimes really irritating. Then you have to fine-tune the gain and to listen really carefully to pinpoint the animal’s direction. And sometimes it is just a matter of the landscape that you don’t find the animals.

Camera traps

Another possibility to track animals and learn more about their behavior is a camera trap which are set up in places where animals are expected to show up like at waterholes or close to their dens. They need batteries and SD cards to be changed and this is what we did too. The photos on the SD card will then be checked and all photographed animals and times documented.

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