The growth of hi-tech track­ing

Track­ing is a skill that de­mands knowl­edge, com­mit­ment and time. But tech­nol­ogy of­fers new meth­ods.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Tracking -

RA­DIO

At the very ba­sic level of tech­nol­ogy, there is ra­dio, and many sa­fari com­pa­nies rely on it to do the track­ing job for them. Christophe Bet­tany, owner of a Selous re­sort, ex­plains: “All the guides are on the same wave­length, so they are all shar­ing in­for­ma­tion. That is when you end up with a lot of ve­hi­cles in one place around a lion, for ex­am­ple. There is not much ac­tual track­ing done at all.” The down­side is that univer­sal wave­length is ac­ces­si­ble to poach­ers, too, so some ar­eas have in­stalled closed net­works.

GPS

Gath­er­ing data through GPS and teleme­try has been a boon to sci­ence and re­search. It en­ables mon­i­tor­ing of move­ment, es­pe­cially sig­nif­i­cant for those want­ing to wit­ness mi­grat­ing herds. Once this in­for­ma­tion is shared, it’s pos­si­ble to track an­i­mals with­out leav­ing your lodge (or even the coun­try) – or en­sure that you are in the right place at the right time. How­ever, there are con­cerns that fit­ting an­i­mals with trans­mit­ters can cause in­jury or af­fect their breed­ing abil­ity.

DRONES

Those want­ing to use drones to achieve a closer, ae­rial scan of an area in or­der to track and pho­to­graph an­i­mals, may be dis­ap­pointed. Many re­serves, such as the Selous, now ban them be­cause of ev­i­dence that the noise causes stress and panic, driv­ing wildlife away from the area, which, it could be ar­gued, de­feats the very point of a sa­fari.

An African wild­cat is fit­ted with a ra­dio trans­mit­ter to en­able track­ing.

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