What’s in a Collar?
One of our priority tracking techniques with Wildlife ACT is the radio-tracking of collars via telemetry. If you’ve visited with us before, you would know the drill of the thrill of scanning with the telemetry equipment while at the same time communicating with your monitor which direction to take in order to get a visual of your daily target. But did you know there are various types of wildlife tracking collars each performing different functions?
Some collars can tell us whether an animal is on the move or resting. Some can tell us if an animal is in trouble. And some can even allow us to see via satellites where exactly the target animal has been hiding when terrain or distance prohibits a VHF signal.
So how exactly do we decide who gets what?
Wildlife tracking collars are chosen depending on the species and condition of the target animal. Each collar is designed to minimise impact on the animals’ behaviour and to maximise their detectability. Varying belts and battery sizes are available depending on type of service required, however, the general rule is that no collar should be more than 4 to 5 percent of the animal’s body weight. For example, the weight of a collar for an average African Wild Dog should not exceed 450g.
Basic Breakdown of Wildlife Tracking Collars:
1. VHF Collars – Very High Frequency (emits a pulsed radio signal allowing tracker to home in with directional antenna)
2. GPS Collars:
a. Satellite Collars (send data & location via satellite to an online web system)
b. GSM collars (sends data & location via surrounding mobile phone coverage)
c. UHF collars (can be remotely downloaded with a nearby device)
The cost of standard VHF tracking collars can range from R6,500 to R9,500, whereas GPS, GSM and Iridium Satellite Collars can range anywhere from R12,000 to R60,000 per collar.
Why do we Need to Collar & Monitor Endangered Species?
- To study the animals and record behavioural, social and feeding patterns for research purposes.
- Monitoring is an effective way of keeping track of animals movement patterns and demographics and learning about their ecology and population structures.
- Monitoring animals intensively allows us to predict future movements and possible dispersals of Wild Dogs from their packs, for example.
- With wildlife tracking collars we are able to detect if animals have left the confines of the park – allowing us to act immediately to bring them back, thereby preventing conflict and interaction with humans and domesticated animals (which could be carriers of Rabies, Parvo or Distemper virus).
- By being in the field with the animals on a day-to-day basis, we pick up on poaching incidences quickly as well as injuries from fighting and predation.
Ideally, we would like to be able to see where an animal is at all times with ease, i.e. motion satellite tracking collars on all our targets, however, there are many factors involved in this and unfortunately some of the main limitations include cost, battery life and surrounding network.
To find out more about the different types of wildlife tracking collars and how to help, read further below, or visit Wildlife ACT Innovations for available products for your organisation.