Tracking and monitoring of wildlife are prior steps to their conservation. Africa on its own provides a habitat to over 400 species of wild animals which are endangered. Tracking and monitoring these animals provides essential data on movement patterns, population demographics, and habitat utilization.
Additionally, tracking and monitoring provide information about snaring, breakouts and poaching incidents which are useful in wildlife conservation. Despite monitoring being an important wildlife conservation step, the majority of African game reserves lack the capacity and adequate funds to effectively track and monitor their wildlife. Several volunteer bodies and organizations such as wildlife ACT provide wildlife tracking and monitoring services free of charge. The data they obtain has managerial applications such as planning strategies on how to introduce and remove Africa’s wildlife.
There are different types of equipment that are used to track and monitor wildlife. Among the most common and increasing in popularity is the use of trail cameras. Trail cameras initially were used to study animal activity and behavior in various African game reserves among other applications. Today trail cameras have been digitalized to a high extent. They have compact flash or digital card, power supply and visible or invisible flash. Additionally, they are equipped with a trigger mechanism which is enclosed in a weatherproof shell. The shell can be attached to a tree or a raised object. Modern trail cameras are designed to take still photographs of detected animals and short video clips according to the settings. Invisible flash technology in advanced wireless trail cameras has provided clear and still photos of animals at close range without disturbing the animal or endangering it.
When hunting, photos from trail cameras provide identification of individuals that are ready for harvest. Managers are therefore able to determine which animal is ready for harvesting. Organized trophy hunt are usually set in most African game reserves. Various contestants both foreign and local compete for the trophy in the hunting expedition. The weapon used by the hunters is exclusively determined by the safari hunt organization and differs from safari to safari. Usually, there is a final reward for the best hunter and a chance to be featured on the book records as per the policy of the safari hunt.
Mechanism of Action
Trail cameras work by a simple mechanism. Animals passing by produce heat which can be detected by the camera. The motion of the animal can also trigger trail cameras within a particular distance (usually 60 feet). The sensitivity of the camera trigger is adjustable to provide optimized use of night and day settings. Traditionally there was a challenge on the memory size and battery life. Modern trail cameras have advanced battery life and separate memory card that can support mass storage greater than 1,000 pictures. Currently, trail cameras can operate for more than 150 days depending on a specific model without the need to recharge the battery. Also, separate accessories such as solar panels and external battery packs can be purchased together with a trail camera to provide extended life. Internet-enabled mobile devices can be used to monitor the activity and operation of a trail camera without necessarily moving close.
Time saving is one of the most important advantages of using a trail camera. Trail cameras provide extra observational advantage along game trails for feeders, hunters and rarely observable wild animals. With trail cameras, you don’t need to stay all day long and night waiting for a traced animal to pass by your camera trap. As mentioned earlier internet access can facilitate watching even during the night. For more enthusiastic wildlife monitors, trail cameras provide inclusive behavioral patterns that are rarely observed.
Trail Camera Placement
Quantity and Placement of trail cameras differ significantly from one wildlife reserve to another. Other factors such as the objectives and goals for setting the camera determine the number and subsequent placement. Trail cameras are on the high demand in most African game reserves to observe behavior patterns and population size of various wild animals. Daily activities in wildlife monitoring and tracking in most African game reserves revolve around tracking and monitoring endangered animals. These include among others the African wild dog, black rhino, cheetah, and vultures. Tracking and monitoring these endangered species provides information on how they are affected by their ecology and priority species. Priority species include hyena, elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and white rhino. The endangered species are tracked and monitored on a daily basis to ensure their conservation.
Trail cameras are set at strategic places where the animals feed and quench their thirst. Simple tools such as the internet enabled devices are then used to track the behavior, number, and ecological effect.
Common Activities involved in Monitoring and Conservation
- Re-introduction and relocation of wild animals
- Monitoring nocturnal animals such as the hyena
- Controlling alien vegetation
- Bird ringing
- Rescuing animals from traps laid by poachers
- Tagging animals for identity
- Setting trail cameras in strategic places
- Nest survey and vulture count