Keystone Species Protection
WildiZe has provided funding for critical research on predator niche conservation including collaring programs to understand territorial patterns, food habits, and competition circles. This is the first project of its kind looking at a diverse array of predators (lion, leopard, hyena, cheetah, wild dog) collared for data research.
Funds were specifically allocated to APCRO for the purchase of 25 multi-species carnivore satellite collars, software to track the subjects, and associated research fees to garner results for on-going conservation. Understanding the relationship that these keystone species have to one another is important to understanding the dynamics of this and other ecosystems. This is a pioneering project with a pan-African perspective with the overall goal to examine the viability and health of African predators.
African Predator Conservation Research Organization (APCRO) consists of a diverse group of researchers, primarily from the fields of veterinary medicine and genetics, whose common goal is to gather knowledge and initiate original research projects examining carnivores in their natural environments. These investigations examine the role of disease, genetics, reproductive potential, parasitism, nutrition and pathology and the role they play in the survivability of these species.
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Project Update January, 2011
Since our last update, APCRO continues to receive excellent data from the three deployed and 100% functioning hyena collars. The data is being received very consistently and we are pleased was this is not always the case in the Southern hemisphere due to the decreased number of satellites in that part of the sky.
We are in between field trips and are currently working to tie the resources of the University of Idaho's Dr. Gessler who is a GIS expert with many of the GIS associated technologies. Due to the paucity of transferable data, we have connected with a NASA associate who is well acquainted with Google Earth and our consultants/associates are currently beginning to liaise to use the assets of each consultants background and skill to get the easiest straight forward approach to our data analysis as our files expand.
Our geneticist, Dr. Jean Dubach continues to work on genetic analysis from previous collection trips but we did not return with the small number of samples from the last trip so they will be returned in March.
We have re-connected with the jackal "trapper" we are attempting to employ for Dr. Don Neiffer (Disney Animal Kingdom) for the application of collars and the anesthesia study portion. We will attempt to get the trapper and Dr. Neiffer in on a trip in the next 9 months as we feel jackals are a major component in the disease transference.
We are readying for purchasing our next group of collars which will focus more on African wild dog and leopard. We will deploy our next round of collar in March.
Project Update December 2010
Since our last update provided on November 5, 2010 APCRO continues to receive excellent data from the three deployed and 100% functioning hyena collars. The data is being received very consistently and we are quite pleased with the number of fixes we are getting on each animal.
We have programmed the collars to give three fixes per 24 hour period so we can follow their activity at dusk, midnight, and dawn. Due to the paucity of satellites in the southern hemisphere many previous studies by APCRO's associate have had many "dead spots" in data retrieval. We feel much of this is due to the quality of the Telonics collars purchased as well as the continued improvements in the ARGOS satellite system who basically lease time from NOAA and some DOD satellites. Since there is so much conservation work in the southern hemisphere, we believe the multiple demands are possibly putting some pressure on this data production.
We are integrating the satellite generated data points with a Google Earth program and are in the process of developing data sets due to the massive amount of weekly data obtained. We are in discussions with our GIS expert (Dr. Paul Gessler) and others as how to parse the data out to make it manageable. Especially as we add new animals on our next field trip. This is THE most essential component of the satellite data, but the massive data accumulation must be properly integrated and thus far is going well.
On other fronts we continue to work toward funding our February trip. We do tend to have better results in December in that many donors are getting their donations organized at that time of year.
We are very excited about our data flow and have already made some exceptional observations with the range of the animals. The lack of crossover and thus interaction of different hyena clans despite the large territories they have, and also the independent movement of same clan members showing great dispersal within established clans.
Project Update November 2010
The field trip turned out to be quite successful and we have deployed 3 of our 5 hyena collars and 1 of our lion collars. We had opportunity to deploy two of our African wild dog collars, but for the sake of the pack, we chose not to. That is explained below.
When we first received the collars we had to reprogram them for a later release date on the automatic release mechanism due to our delays in getting them out in the field. Beth was able to do that on her laptop in our bakkie while we waited for the sun to go down one afternoon.
We located a large clan of spotted hyena near the new Labala airfield and darted several animals. We hadspent several nights watching the group and chose who to collar very carefully. We felt we placed the collar on the second highest ranking female. This allows us more longevity should the matriarch meet with a severe problem due to her status in the group, which does occur. We also collared an animal we deemed to be a mid-level and young male. This gives us a broad spectrum look at this enormous clan that we estimated at at-least 18 individuals.
We then went to the north of our base camp near the western edge of the Lagoon airstrip and deployed a collar on a mid-level female in another relatively large clan. We estimate this clan at about 14 individuals.
The number of lions was very low in the area but collared three of the animals in one group. The VHF frequency worked beautifully, but thus far we have not received any satellite transmissions.
We managed to locate the large northern pack of wild dogs (now numbering 15), but there were 5 small pups running with the adults now so it was ill advised to alter the dynamic of the group with an immobilization, especially since we want to collar the dominant female. This could prove lethal to the cohesion of the pack and we were not going to alter anything with this dynamic in play. The pups will soon be old enough to adapt to the temporary alternations in the group with a collaring at our next visit. We also located the tracks of the second pack (Southern Pack) when working with the Labala hyena, but it is a dangerous dynamic to immobilize African wild dogs with a huge clan of hyena in the vicinity.
Data is coming in as we work with ARGOS and Telonics to get the data points on our Google Map program so we can monitor movement. And it appears to be coming in nicely from our hyenas.
We are most excited to get the collars on the animals to really flesh out the intraspecies interactions for our disease studies. Our intent is to deploy again in February and likely May for the final group of collars. Since we received a three year extension on our permit, we are easily within our time frame to complete the study in the allotted time