One part of our work in leopard conservation, is to monitor leopard behaviour using GPS tracking systems. These systems are great when they work, but…….you’re ahead of me…….when they don’t they lead to no end of worry for us.
During the filming of a TV documentary with us last year (coming to your screen soon folks!), we collared a big female leopard that we called Lynsey. All was well and we were getting some great data from her collar, until around a month ago when the collar stopped working.
To be honest although no-one said as much, we were all worried about her. She could have been injured or killed in a fight (she was trying to take over her mothers territory), or worse, she could have wandered out of our protected zone and into a poacher’s snare.
Okay so those were irrational thoughts, after all we had no evidence to say there was a problem other than not receiving any data from her collar, but it’s just like having a child who has gone off to play without telling you. You can’t help but worry.
Anyway, there is a happy ending to the story. We have found Lynsey safe and well, however her very expensive collar is obviously faulty.
I have been offered a replacement for the collar, but that’s little compensation. I have caught and collared quite a few big cats and hyenas and it isn’t as easy as it sounds, nor is it something we do without considering a number of ethical and welfare issues.
The radio transmitter on Lynseys’ collar is still working (it’s just the GPS part that’s faulty), so we’ll keep monitoring her the old fashioned way. But we will put the replacement collar to good use. I have a friend who we visit on safari, who is helping to repopulate a huge wildlife reserve in Malawi. If he gets an injured leopards brought in to his centre that can’t be returned to where they were found (for whatever reason), then he sends them to Malawi. Where they form part of a very exciting international project to re-establish wildlife after years of deprivation.
I love it when a plan comes together…