After months of planning and preparation, searching for vets, fixing cars, deciding which leopards to target, mapping out and clearing potential trap sites, setting and checking traps, and finally trapping and collaring leopards, we are now in a position to begin downloading data from the collars! Science is happening, people, and it’s very exciting!
CC with her new collar
We are very lucky to have five state-of-the-art leopard collars from Vectronic Aerospace. The collars store the position of the leopard every 3 hours and 20 minutes, and constantly monitor the acceleration of the collar (to determine activity patterns) and which collared baboons are nearby (although we haven’t yet collared any baboons). They also transmit a VHF radio signal to help us locate the animal in real time, and can send us the stored data by UHF radio signal if we can get within a couple of kilometres of the animal. Every 2 days or so the collars also check for mobile phone reception, and when possible they send text messages containing some of the data to our base station. The collars are programmed to drop off automatically after just over a year, or we can drop them off remotely any time if necessary. After we recover the collars we can download the data if we need to, refurbish the collar with new batteries, reprogram them, and fit them to new animals.
One of our Vectronic Aerospace GPS-Plus collars for a male leopard
We have already started downloading data from the three collars that we have deployed, and it is fascinating to see where they have been! Unfortunately for you blog readers we have decided not to publish the location data yet. Some collared individuals have visited some dodgy areas where they are at risk of being killed or removed, and we don’t want to put then at any additional danger. It’s a bit like having a teenager and finding out that they have been sneaking out at night to some dangerous parts of town.