Animal movement studies play a key role in understanding how different species interact with their environment. They are also instrumental for identifying key wildlife corridors that are in need protection.
An example of this is a study conducted by researchers from Elephants Without Borders (EWB). They tracked the movements of 120 elephants in southern Africa using satellite tags and were able to identify a network of wildlife corridors which expanded across several African countries. They were also able to identify narrow and fragmented corridors near villages and other human settlements.
From these findings, the researchers stressed the importance of establishing cross-border coordination between countries in order to preserve these wildlife corridors. To minimise conflict with humans in nearby villages, they suggested that corridors need to be bigger and unimpeded.
Human settlements often infringe on the natural habitat of elephants, leaving villages susceptible to being crop-raided by elephants migrating through the area in search for food. This has led to conflict to occur between both humans and elephants. Conflicts like these can be expected to become increasingly common as human settlements expand and wildlife habitat shrinks.
Gaining such insights is invaluable when considering the most effective conservation or management actions. However, when considering similar studies on small animals that move in unpredictable ways or over large areas, additional challenges are faced given the need to track tiny radio-tags across vast landscapes.
To understand the movements and wildlife corridor requirements of small animals, it is necessary to be able to search for radio-tagged animals as efficiently as possible, such as by using radio-tracking drones. By using drones to radio-track small animals, a lot of the challenges of traditional manual radio-tracking can be overcome, as demonstrated in our recent project tracking small migratory birds (Swift Parrots). This includes the ability to create a high point wherever the drone is launched, maximising signal detection and enabling large areas to be searched efficiently.
By conducting such tracking studies on species both great and small, researchers are now able to better understand the movements and habitat requirements of individual species and the wildlife corridors they use. More importantly, these findings can help inform solutions that minimise the “roadblocks” that humans create and subsequent habitat fragmentation. In doing so, the creation and restoration of wildlife corridors can enable both humans and animals to coexist in peace.
Adams, T., Chase, M., Rogers, T. and Leggett, K. (2016). Taking the elephant out of the room and into the corridor: can urban corridors work?. Oryx, 51(02), pp.347-353.
Bosaletswe, C. (2018). Tracking elephant movements reveals transboundary wildlife corridors. [online] Mongabay Environmental News. Available at: https://news.mongabay.com/wildtech/2018/09/tracking-elephant-movements-reveals-transboundary-wildlife-corridors/ [Accessed 23 Oct. 2018].
Wwf.panda.org. (2018). Issues: Human-elephant conflict. [online] Available at: http://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/endangered_species/elephants/asian_elephants/areas/issues/elephant_human_conflict/ [Accessed 23 Oct. 2018].