Tracking Hyena via Satellite
April 12 2016

After making several failed attempts to collar a hyena in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park, a team, led by ALERT CEO Dr. Norman Monks tried again these past few days.

Hyena Collaring

On the first night the exercise seemed hopeless.  Four hyenas came to the site where the trap was located; less than we had observed at other sites.  None made any attempt to enter the trap for the bait.  The team sat for hours in the dark night, but nothing happened.  The team decided to leave the trap for the night and check it the following day.

Next morning the team found the trap door closed, but with nothing inside except the bait.  Fortunately, a remote camera had been set close to the trap door. The research team analysed the videos from the camera and realised that the height of the gate was too low.  Whenever a hyena attempted to enter the trap it felt the bar of the gate on its shoulders, and it would back out.  The trap was reset, with the gate raised higher. 

Early the following morning the team checked the cage once again.  Inside was a calm adult male hyena.  Dr. Monks sedated the animal and a collar was fitted and measurements taken.  The whole collaring process and the measurements took 33 minutes.  15 minutes later the hyena was awake, and after 22 minutes it was up and walking.

Hyena Collaring

This Hyena is fitted with a GPS collar allowing its movements to be monitored by satellite.  The team will also be able to locate the animal regularly to evaluate its behaviour.   

About the Zambezi National Park Hyena Project

Large mammal carnivores play an important role in maintaining a balance between the ungulate population and the environment.  However, when carnivore numbers increase, certain age classes of the ungulate population can be negatively affected.  Spotted hyena, contrary to popular thought, do hunt extensively and predate mainly on the juvenile age class, although they will also take down adult animals.  Spotted hyena are the most common and abundant large mammal predator in many African ecosystems.  In Zambezi National Park and surrounding areas it has been reported that there is little recruitment into the juvenile age class in the large ungulate population and it is hypothesized that this is due to a large spotted hyena population.  In addition, reports have been received that hyena are significantly involved in livestock predation in nearby human-populated areas.  To date no studies have been carried out on spotted hyena in the area and this study will look at the population dynamics of this species in the areas mentioned to obtain population size, population dynamics, recruitment, home-range, prey preference and interaction with livestock.  The interaction between lions and hyena will also be studied as these two species are major competitors and are known to limit population growth within their populations.    This study will be undertaken as a joint project between the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust and is expected to last at least three years.  At the end of the study management recommendations will be presented to ZPWMA.

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