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Achievement Report Karongwe June 2017


Written by Gregory Crichton Volunteer Co-ordinator

Report Title
Cheetah tracking and the value of GIS in research

Objective
To provide valuable data on predator dynamics to reserve management using Geographical
Information Systems (GIS).

Report
Karongwe Private Game Reserve is regarded as a predator dense reserve, predators being lions,
leopards, hyena, jackal and cheetahs. This high density means that predator interactions can be a
common occurrence. This provides an opportunity to observe and study how predators co-exist and
survival rates of the individuals that are lower on the predator hierarchy, such as cheetah.

Cheetah are designed by nature for speed and agility, not strength, therefore encounters with larger
and stronger predators can be fatal. Cheetah are considered vulnerable and in accordance with the
conservation efforts by the Endangered Wildlife Trust we are ensuring they can prosper for years to
come. Using tracking devices, purchased with generous GVI Trust donations, cheetah, and other
predators, can be tracked daily and their behaviour, movements and interactions can be observed in
the field. These observations are then recorded and analysed using Geographic Information Systems
(GIS). Maps produced using GIS alongside field observations positively aid reserve management by
ensuring well-informed management decisions can be made. This has been especially important
recently after the introduction of a coalition of three male cheetahs on Karongwe.

Tracking our cheetah occurs twice a day, morning and evening. GVI staff head out on drive and use
telemetry kits to track individuals and GPS to record coordinates. In the event that guides on the
reserve find the cheetahs instead of GVI, the coordinates can be accurately acquired using in the
field locations and GIS. GVI Karongwe uses freeware GIS software called QGIS (Quantum Geographic
Information System) for data analysis. QGIS allows staff to produce outputs that not only display
locations, using coordinates, but also display different features, providing a means to analyse data in
a spatial context. What this means is we are able to represent the locations of kills, kill utilisations,
interactions, interesting behaviours and any other incidents with a visual reference. This data can
also be used to determine movement patterns, territories, and relations to other predators,
common prey, hunting grounds, average distance travelled per day and more.

In short, the tracking of individual animals allows for the observation and study of the effectiveness
of cheetah reintroduction into predator dense areas. Using field data combined with GIS the
reintroduced cheetahs progress and survival can be monitored. To date, the reintroduced coalition
of brothers have mated with the female (tracking will also help determine whether this will result in
a successful pregnancy or not), had numerous successful hunts, no fatal or harmful encounters with
larger predators and are establishing a territory within the reserve. This is a very promising start to
their lives on Karongwe and all signs indicate that the boys will thrive.