Radio Collars for Conservation

Recently, I worked with members of the Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute, Tanzanian National Parks Authority and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority to “radio collar” endangered African wild dogs.

The work was done in the Loliondo and Sonjo areas of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro district. The aim of the exercise was to fit five dogs from different packs with special collars that can be tracked by radio transmitter. These collars will let researchers see how far the dogs are ranging and whether they are entering Serengeti National Park from current denning locations outside the park.

The work involved waking up early in the morning, spreading into two teams and searching for the dogs until late evening or night. In the field we had to walk up in the hills, valleys and bushes. The first days were very difficult because the dogs are clever. Before the exercise, they were often seen in the area, but when we were there they were not seen easily. Sometimes we found their prey but no dogs.

Eventually, though, we managed to collar three dogs: two from the Maaloni pack and the third one from the Ololosokwan pack. We used special enclosures to hold the dogs, allowing the team to get close and dart them, take blood and fecal samples (for health analysis), put on the radio collar and let them go.

It was so exciting to see the dogs up close—I can tell you that African wild dogs are beautiful. The only problem was that it was late when we caught the two dogs from Maaloni pack, so we had to work quickly to free the dogs before dark. (Unfortunately, we didn’t even have time to take some good photos of the dogs.)

In the end, though, it was great to work with guys from different institutions. All that we accomplished was possible because we worked like a team, not as individuals

Machunde Bigambo, Field Officer, Serengeti Health Initiative (Machunde is at far-right in the photo above.)

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