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Newly fitted GPS monitors keep tails of giraffes wagging

Newly fitted GPS monitors keep tails of giraffes wagging

Four new satellite GPS telemetry were fitted on giraffes in Etosha National Park and Ehirovipuka Communal Conservancy recently.

The exercise was done under the auspices of the ORYCS project, a Namibian-German research project, in collaboration with Potsdam University, Germany.

“Namibia is one of the few places where giraffes are adequately protected and their numbers are growing. Therefore, understanding their movements, what they eat, and how they react to human encroachment can be used for their global protection,” Professor Morgan Hauptfleisch, the BRC Head and Associate Professor, from NUST’s Faculty of Natural Resources and Spatial Sciences, said.

The exercise was done by the Biodiversity Research Centre of the Namibia Science and Technology Univierity (NUST), in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism; the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF); and the University of Namibia’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Due to their unique physical structure, it is not a simple task to fit GPS monitors on giraffes. The GCF was the first to use GPS satellite units and have been evolving them for the last 20 years.

“In July, NUST and GCF tested a new device that can be attached to the tail of the giraffe. This could replace the previous technology which is fitted to the horn of the animal,” Professor Hauptfleisch said.

In the past, research showed that ossicone (horn) GPS devices got damaged on a regular basis when giraffes fight, and in general, the process to fit the device was a lengthy one.

“The tail units take a minute, at most, to fit, and since this specie does not respond well to anaesthetics, we need to get the animal back on its feet as quickly as possible,” Professor Hauptfleisch elaborated.

The device provides information on the feeding requirements and preferences of animals, and identifies obstacles to migration and possible sites of human-wildlife conflict.

“After two weeks of observation, I am pleased to note that tail trackers are performing well,” Jackson Hamutenya, a Researcher from GCF, said.

Fitting a tail unit with vets from NUST and UNAM.


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Donald Matthys

Donald Matthys has been part of the media fraternity since 2015. He has been working at the Namibia Economist for the past three years mainly covering business, tourism and agriculture. Donald occasionally refers to himself as a theatre maker and has staged two theatre plays so far. Follow him on twitter at @zuleitmatthys

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