Tall order to collar a giraffe

2015-06-29 15:54


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Bloemfontein - It’s a tall order to equip a giraffe with a collar.

But that is exactly what Francois Deacon, lecturer and researcher at the University of the Free State, does, alongside Prof Nico Smith, who are among the first people to equip giraffes with GPS collars as part of his research on the animals.

Deacon, who works for the department of Wildlife and Grassland Sciences at the university, said: “Satellite tracking is proving to be extremely valuable in the wildlife environment. The GPS unit utilises two-way data satellite communication, complete with GPS systems.

It allows us to track animals day and night, while we monitor their movements remotely from the computer. These systems make possible the efficient control and monitoring of wildlife in all weather conditions and in near-to-real time. We can even communicate with the animals, calling up their positions or changing the tracking schedules.

“The satellite collar allows us to use the extremely accurate data to conduct research with the best technology available. The volume of data received allows us to publish the data in scientific journals and research-related articles,” he said.

International interest

This project has attracted a lot of international interest. In June last year, a US film crew filmed a documentary on Francois’ research for Discovery Channel and early this year, a second crew, filming for National Geographic, also visited Francois to document his work.

“Scientific institutions and the public sector have both shown great interest in satellite tracking, which opens up new ground for scientific research for this university.

"Data management can be done, using Africa Wildlife Tracking (AWT) equipment where we can access our data personally, store it, and make visual presentations,” Deacon said.

Data can be analysed to determine home range, dispersal, or habitat preference for any specific species.

Francois has been involved in multiple research projects over the last 12 years on wildlife species and domesticated animals, including the collaring of species such as black-backed jackal, caracal, African wild dog, hyena, lion, cheetah, cattle, kudu, giraffe, and black rhino: “Giraffe definitely being the most challenging of all,” he said.

In 2010, he started working on his PhD, entitled The spatial ecology, habitat preferences and diet selection of giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa) in the Kalahari region of South Africa.

Read more on:    bloemfontein  |  animals

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