In our local area we are lucky to be surrounded by a large number of game reserves. South Africa is home to a wide variety of animal species and chief among them are our treasured Magnificent Seven – Buffalo, rhino, elephant, leopard cheetah and lion.
One of the biggest issues facing our wildlife is that their natural habitats and areas that these mighty animals call home, are slowly being encroached on by humans as population continues to expand.
Unfortunately, a lot of game reserves are limited in size and sometimes fenced. These require some form of human intervention to keep the animals in check and the ecosystem balanced.
This is where tracking collars play a vital role. They are essential tools that game reserves have employed to help them manage and control their larger animal populations such as Lions, Cheetah, Wild dogs and Elephants.
Large animals require a lot of space, and in unfenced populations often travel 100s of kms a month seeking food, territories and mates.
While larger reserves like the Kruger National Park have enough space to allow animals like this to roam freely. Smaller reserves, such as in our local area, have to manage them with much tighter control.
Collars are a vital link in the chain that allows game reserve management to do exactly that. They provide a host of valuable information to the management team that allows them to make important decisions regarding their control and ultimately their animals, and our, safety.
The main reason for collaring predators is knowing their whereabouts. Animals that are relocated to an area may have an initial adjustment period where they need to adapt to a new habitat and new food sources. The other main reason for tracking them is to ensure they stay inside the property, as human wildlife conflict is at an all time hight. Predators escaping game reserves must be retrieved immediately, or risk being killed in the communities.
In order to collar an animal in the wild there are a few measures that need to be taken to make the process as smooth and safe as possible.
First the animal needs to be darted in order for the rangers and vet to safely approach them. For the most part, rangers are usually able to do this from their vehicles but in some cases they might need to enlist the help of a helicopter to get close enough.
Once the animal is darted it’s best to move them to an open area, or into a boma, so as to give the team on the ground a safer area to work in.
There will be a wildlife vet with the team to check the animal for any obvious issues. While the vet is doing their checks the reserve team will prepare the collar to be fitted. This is precision work as they need to ensure the collar is tight enough around the neck so as to not get snagged or slip off, yet loose enough to not choke the animal. Once the delicate balance is found they secure the collar and the vet administers the ‘wake-up’ drugs.