Team 6 caught another honey badger in the lodge east trap, and this one we released because the IZW veterinarian was too busy with other tasks to come to immobilise the animal and take samples. The rest of the week was business as usual—box traps, elephants, tracks & scats, and waterholes in the mornings, and box traps, waterholes, and elephants in the afternoons. Anh, Prasadu and Gabi’s names were drawn to help Vera investigate several clusters, which is a new activity.
What are clusters? Every 3-4 weeks Vera’s colleague flies over the study area and downloads the information off all the animal collars in the field. Vera gets the data and can see the activity of each animal. When an animal spends a significant amount of time in one area, or comes back to an area repeatedly over a period of a few days, it shows up as a cluster in the data. Vera then goes out into the field and investigates the area looking for evidence of activity, scat, kills, and other useful information. Her study area is much larger than Okambara, yet we had two such clusters on the farm and so she took volunteers out to investigate.
One animal (L051) spent all day in one location, but the site revealed none of its secrets. The second cluster they investigated belonged to L055, the leopard Team 6 collared upon their arrival, where the animal had come back repeatedly over a three day period. That site revealed two kills – one older and unidentifiable animal (Vera took hair samples back to the lab to determine the species) and a newer young oryx.
Normally the timing does not work out quite so well – collar an animal and then have the ability not only to see its movements in the next slot, but also then be able actually to track its movements in the field within the same two week expedition. Don’t worry previous team members – when Vera publishes her final report on the expedition, she will also include data on the movements of “our” animals.
Thanks Team 6 for all your hard work, and for your flexibility throughout the expedition, and for the rain you brought complete with the double rainbow!