It’s been about five months since we collared the first brown hyaena and we still hadn’t downloaded from either of the two collared hyaenas.
We have driven around in the dark for hours trying to download, stayed on several neighbouring properties to look for them, and camped out on the top of mountains in tents. Time for a new approach… mountain and Muhammad style! If we can’t go to the hyaenas, then the hyaenas must come to us.
I spoke to the Project Phiri in South Africa’s North West Province who use call ins with brown hyaenas and I read a number of papers on how to call predators in for density surveys.
Then last Saturday night Noeks, Leanne and I headed off into the mountains to try calling the collared hyaenas and leopards in to us.
Noeks setting up the speaker.
We played the sound of dying rabbit for three minutes, waited five minutes and then turned the speaker 90 degrees.
The sound of dying rabbit at full blast is not pretty. The rabbit does not just yelp and keel over; it whines and yells and shrieks for a full quarter of an hour before even considering giving in. If you would like a wee taste what we spent hours listening to, click here.
We also listened to the cutely named (but not cute sounding) cottontail rabbit’s death call as well.
The CD player.
In between calls and for twenty minutes after the four calling sessions we used spotlights to look for animals, listened for collared animals using the VHF receiver and tried downloading with the UHF receiver.
Every time we got out the vehicle to turn the speakers we cautiously checked about for animals since the CD we used for our calls aptly warned us that ‘PREDATORS CAN AND DO ATTACK!’ .
However on Saturday and Sunday nights when we tried call ins we had no response from anything. This didn’t stop us from getting spooked though! Especially on Sunday when the research assistants were telling scary stories between calling periods.
We’ll keep trying this technique a bit longer and then next step in the great hyaena data challenge is to fly over them and try to download from the air…. stay tuned!
– Katy Williams, PPP Field Team Leader and PhD Candidate