Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites - page 72

Satellite telephone networks allow communica-
tion from the most unusual places.
Here, Femke Broekhuis, a biologist carrying out
research on cheetahs in the Moremi Game Reserve
region, using an IRIDIUM 9555 satellite phone.
© Femke Broekhuis/Suds-Concepts
Cheetah, lion and hyena monitoring
Dr. Femke Broekhuis, biologist,
carried out research about cheetahs in
the Okavango Delta (Botswana), in
collaboration with Botswana colleagues,
the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit
at Oxford University and the Botswana
Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT).
She is now Director of the Mara Cheetah
Project in Kenya.
How did you come to Botswana?
have been living in Botswana
since I was about six years of age.
I moved to the United Kingdom in
2007, to obtain an MSc in Wild Animal
Biology. After completing my degree
I was asked to join the BPCT to take
the lead on the cheetah research in
the Okavango Delta ecosystem. This
unique permanent inland delta and the
world’s largest site protected under
the Ramsar convention on Wetlands of
International Importance.
The core study site encompasses an area
of approximately 3000 km
on Southern
edge of the Moremi Game Reserve,
where human impact is still minimal.
What is your research about?
In the past, cheetah ranged from
southern Africa to North Africa and
all the way into India where they were
used for hunting. Due to threats such
as human-wildlife conflict and habitat
degradation the cheetah population
is quickly decreasing The current
estimate is around 10 000 individuals of
which approximately 2 000 are resident
in Botswana. As areas where cheetah
are able to live are decreasing because
of human activities they are forced into
smaller areas with other predators
such as lion and spotted hyena. They
have a negative impact on cheetah as
they kill up to 73% of cheetah cubs and
often steal their food. This may lead to
the local extinction of less dominant
species like the cheetah. The aim of
the research is therefore to investigate
how lions and hyenas influence the
distribution and behaviour of cheetah.
What kind of tools are you using?
Apart from our usual field equipment
such as research vehicles, we heavily
depend on GPS technology and
satellites, both for our own navigation
and for collecting data. Carnivores such
as cheetahs and lions are elusive, live
at low densities and have large home-
ranges making it very difficult to collect
behavioural data on these animals. To
go around this problem we have fitted
GPS collars on several individuals
that collect data on where the animals
go and what habitats they use. At the
moment we still have to physically
find the animals to upload the data.
This is expensive both in terms of fuel
consumption and time. Using satellite
collars would have been more efficient
as has been demonstrated by my
colleague in Zimbabwe who is using
Argos collars to study the dispersal
behaviour of young male lions. Other
satellite-based technology that is
extremely useful for wildlife research
is equipment such as satellite internet
link to receive data and an Iridium
satellite phone for emergencies.
70 - Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites
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