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Bushlife Safaris August 3, 2020

Carnivore Collaring in Mana Pools

Large Carnivore Research Project

In any national park area, it is important to continually research the wildlife population and observe the dynamics of it. We were very pleased to be a part of an important research study –  the Large Carnivore Research Project, in conjunction with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. 

Predator populations naturally ebb and flow – if lion populations go up, then painted wolves and hyena go down, and vice versa. At the beginning of the year, we undertook the first stage which was a carnivore count. The second phase, which has been funded by the very generous donations of Bushlife Conservancy, was this carnivore collaring. As it is the denning season for the painted wolves we couldn’t collar them – it is critical to never disturb them during this time. In July 2020, we undertook the collaring of three hyenas, a leopard, two lionesses and a lion. It is hoped that by collaring these predators, their movements can be tracked, den sites marked and information on genes and diseases can be collected. The last time that research was collected on lions in Mana Pools was by Norman Monks in 2008, so more recent research is dearly needed.

Carnivore Collaring: Spotted Hyena

The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) is considered a near-threatened species. They are gregarious, and usually form groups of between 3 – 12 individuals. A dominant female is the pack leader. Although mainly nocturnal, they are also seen in the early mornings or late afternoons. They have an acute sense of smell, hearing and sight. For this research project, Nick and the Zimparks team laid out carrion bait and also used hyena calling in order to draw a hyena clan to an open area. Once they arrived to investigate, one hyena was chosen and darted. Three hyenae from three separate clans were collared.

The tranquiliser takes an hour for the animal to metabolise. The team first cover the hyena’s ears and eyes, check that their airway is open and that their breathing is regular. The animal’s health is checked, and body temperature monitored throughout to check for any signs of distress. The collar is secured onto the animal, and the team clear the area to a safe distance and ensure the animal safely comes out of the drug’s effect.

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Hyena collaring 3
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Hyena collaring 1

Carnivore Collaring: Leopard

A leopard ( Panthera pardus) is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful of the big cats. Leopards are mainly nocturnal, although they can be seen during the day, mostly in the early mornings and late evenings. They are usually alone, except in mating season. Leopards are shy animals but very dangerous!

To collar the leopard, Nick and his team hung a bait in a tree. This attracted it, and once within range the same collaring procedure as the hyena was followed.

Carnivore Collaring: Lions

The lion (Panthera leo) is King of Beasts, the largest of Africa’s cat family. Lions are very adaptable and occur in most types of habitats where there is enough food. Lions are the only social cats and form small pride of 3 to 12 animals – although as many as 30 have been seen together. Nick has seen a mega pride of 25 lions in the Nyamatusi and Chitake area. Two lionesses and one lion were successfully collared.

Well done to the Zimbabwe National Parks for a professional and well-run collaring programme!

Carnivore collaring Mana Pools
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Carnivore collaring Mana Pools 2
Carnivore collaring Mana Pools 3
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