LION AND RHINO HI-TECH TRACKING
Digitally Helping Our Wildlife
"Wildlife is something which man cannot construct. Once it is gone, it is gone forever." -Joy Adamson.
We’re often told that it’s our technology that harms the wildlife populations of the natural world. But here’s a tech innovation that’s actually protecting our precious lions, rhinos, cheetahs, and other threatened species. And you can be a part of it on your African safari adventure.
We’re talking about the development of lightweight radio collars which are gently worn on big cats and rhinos, to track their movements, helping to protect them from poachers and alerting nearby herders to minimize human-wildlife conflict.
There are dozens of ways these new tracking systems help and even nurture our threatened wildlife. And you can have a front-row seat to this amazing conservation effort. Imagine, being in a 4 x 4 Jeep or even on a guided walking safari, with rangers and guides, positioning their electronic gear and finding a nearby lion, cheetah, or rhino.
You slowly move forward, coming breathtakingly close to the monitored animal. You can see the radio collar around its neck, beaming its signals not just to your team but to receiving stations, sometimes satellites, sending an important record of that animal’s movements.
What an incredible way to safari!
Why Monitor the Wildlife?
Lions – there are 43% fewer of them now than twenty years ago. The prides inhabit only 8% of the land they used in the past. Across all of Africa, populations have gone from 200,000, now down to about 20,000. Why? Loss of habitat, animal-human conflict, disease, drought, and more.
Monitoring the animals informs rangers and conservationists of their movement and migration patterns, how they behave around human activities, follow disease transmission, and track when cubs are born or when an animal dies.
This information is vital to reducing human interventions, minimizing human conflict, and timely investigating the causes of animal death.
How Does it Work?
It all starts with the radio collar, an extremely lightweight GPS transmitter that is worn around the animal’s neck. Qualified veterinarians administer tranquilizer darts to temporarily subdue the animal. The collars comprise only 1% of the animal’s weight so they don’t interfere with their ability to move and hunt.
The collars can be remotely removed later on with a radio-controlled drop-off mechanism.
Once fitted, the collars send intermittent or continuous signals to either nearby receivers or beam them up to satellites which then relay the information to a monitoring station.
These signals are also picked up by portable receivers such as the one used by your safari guide to locate the animal. Some conservancies even feature tracking centers, where safari-goers can follow real-time tracking data on a large screen.
How We Protect the Wildlife
Oftentimes, lions and cheetahs will wander out past the protected areas of national parks and conservancies. This is the time of greatest threat to them. Monitoring their activity patterns gives rangers notice when they might come near populated areas of humans or livestock.
It is those situations that can lead to human conflict and jeopardize the animals’ safety. With advance notice, herders and others can be notified and give a wide berth to the roaming wildlife.
The results have been encouraging. In the Ewaso area in northern Kenya, since monitoring and conservation efforts have begun, the lion population has increased from a low of 11 to over 50 of the big cats.
Where Can I Go On Tracking Safaris?
The key to getting yourself on a safari with a monitoring team? Contact the private conservancies. These reserves border unprotected areas and have the resources to set up an electronic tracking program.
In some of the private reserves near the Masai Mara Park, such as Ol Kinyei Conservancy, the Mara Predator Conservation Program tracks collared wildlife connected to satellite communications systems to monitor the animals.
At the Mugie Conservancy, north of Nairobi, you can track one of several lionesses from different prides that have been outfitted with the collars. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) monitors the movements of the prides, and alerts the area’s herders about the lions’ whereabouts, protecting their flocks.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy boasts one of the highest densities of predators in Kenya. You should be able to get close to lions during a tracking safari, using a receiver and helping to gather information about the pride. This data is analyzed by the local monitoring unit to help protect the local wildlife.
Go Rhino Tracking As Well
In northern Kenya’s Sera Community Conservancy, embark on a very different tracking adventure. How about a walking safari with an expert guide and ranger leading you close to one of the collared rhinos in the 25,650-acre sanctuary?
You’ll begin in your 4 x 4 Jeep, monitoring for the electronic signals emanating from the rhinos’ collars. Locating an animal, you will proceed gently on foot, getting to within meters of a grazing rhino.
Make Your Reservations Now
Would you like to be a part of a project to electronically track and gather vital information about our wildlife? Just let us know at the time of your booking. Because of the technical and specific nature of this type of safari, we will need to make arrangements well in advance. Sometimes a minimum number of participants are required and of course, the tracking safari is dependent on the weather.
What an incredible way to increase your chances of spotting endangered wildlife while being part of a program that is helping them to thrive.
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©Photo & video credits: Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Governors Camps Collection, Mara Predator Project & Ewaso Lions
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