Sunday, October 08, 2006

Cheetah tracking in Botswana

Plotting the movements of a cheetah by cellular collar

Nala was fitted with a GSM collar, a relatively recent development in satellite collars which works via the cellular network. The collar was programmed to send her location once every 12 hours.

Since then it has been working wonderfully and really shows how powerful a tool these new collar designs can be.

If you have a broadband connection you can see our exciting interactive Tracking Map. This opens in a new window. It makes use of Google Maps to show the path taken by Nala.

Initially when released she stayed in the park. There was a bit of concern when in week 4 she took off north to visit some commercial farms. We were hoping she would not give birth up there! Luckily by week 6 she had returned to the safety of the reserve. She was very mobile until by week 17 it can be seen that she had chosen a denning site to have her cubs. Its fascinating to see that by week 18 she had had the cubs and stayed at the den site, moving out to get food and returning back to the den regularly. In week 23 she started moving again, this time accompanied by her cubs, then only approximately 6 weeks old! Some days she travelled quite far with them.

The barchart overlay shows clearly how Nala's movements became more restricted while the cubs were very young.

Its been a great journey so far. Cheetahs outside of protected areas are elusive, shy and difficult to see. We have learnt so much about Nala and her cubs with this new technology that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.

We have since had visuals on Nala and she has six healthy 7-month old cubs.

We have visited the commercial farms where Nala has frequented and explained to them the importance of these cheetahs and to contact us if they have any problems.

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