Collars help save

2015-08-26 06:00
CAPTURING a giraffe with minimum risk to both the animal and the people involves extraordinary skill, planning and teamwork.

CAPTURING a giraffe with minimum risk to both the animal and the people involves extraordinary skill, planning and teamwork.

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TALL, graceful and elegant. These words are conjured up when describing giraffes.

Giraffes are a phenomenon true to the African landscape and it is difficult to imagine a world without them. But, with fewer than 80 000 individuals left on the African continent, giraffes are now also listed as an endangered species. Three of the nine giraffe subspecies’ populations have fallen below 1 000 animals.

Fortunately for the remaining animals, Francois Deacon and Prof. Nico Smit, researchers at the Department Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), are now equipping giraffes with GPS collars to study their movement, habitat and behaviour.

They are the first researchers in the world to equip giraffes with GPS collars and hope this initiative will help to conserve the giraffe population. Recently, they have been joined by Hennie Butler of the Department of Zoology, as well as Free State Nature Conservation, to further this research.

Being hunted for their meat and skin in most African strife-torn countries, often crippled by famine, their numbers have plummeted from about 140 000 individuals in the past decade.

“Satellite tracking is proving to be extremely valuable in the wildlife environment. The unit is based on a mobile global two-way communication platform, using two-way data satellite communication, complete with GPS systems,” Deacon explains. This allows Deacon and his team to track animals day and night, while they monitor their movements remotely from the computer. They can also communicate with the animals, calling up their positions or changing the tracking schedules

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