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GPS Collaring

Why do we collar lions and other carnivores

Wildlife collars let us collect data on movement patterns, home ranges, and behaviour of collared animals, as well as assisting in conflict reduction and mitigation activities. They are designed to gather as much valuable information as possible while minimising the impact on the collared animal.

How do the collars work

The collars have a GPS unit, which records the location of the animal at specified times, and a VHF unit, which emits a radio signal. The collars also have a satellite transceiver, which sends the collected location information to an online database. The collars are equipped with a mortality sensor, which sends a special signal to us if the animal does not move for 24 hours. If we receive this alert, we notify the relevant management authority right away and, if possible, try to find the animal. 

Collared lioness

How do we put the collars on

Collaring a male lion in Laikipia, Kenya..JPG

Once we have identified who we would like to collar and made sure they look healthy, a qualified government vet uses a dart gun to immobilise the animal from a stationary vehicle. When we are confident the animal is asleep, we park our cars so the animal is blocked from view of any other group members and get to work: the first priority is to fit the collar or treat any injuries, and we then proceed with taking ID photos and measurements. We always make sure to have team members on the lookout for other animals while we work. The drugs usually start wearing off after 45 minutes to an hour, and once we've finished everything, the vet administers a drug to wake the animal back up. We wait with the animal until we it is fully awake and reintegrated with the group.

How heavy are the collars

Wildlife collars are designed so their weight should have a minimal impact on the animal, and it is recommended that collars should not weigh more than 3-4% of the animal's body mass. Our lion collars weigh 1.1kg for males and 0.9kg for females, which is 0.6% and 0.8% of the typical body mass for male (180kg) and female (120kg) lions, respectively. Wild dog collars are much lighter and only weigh 0.2kg, which is roughly 1% of their typical body mass (18-28 kg).

Lion GPS Collar

Can you see where the collared animals are all the time?

collared lions movement map

Unfortunately not! Recording GPS data uses up the collar's battery, so if we set the collars to send location data every hour of the day they would only last for a very short amount of time. We can't resolve this by just using a bigger battery as we are very careful to keep our collars as light as possible, so we have to limit the amount of information they record and transmit. Our lion collars record location information every few hours and transmit this to us via the satellite once or twice a day.

Virtual fence technology

The GPS collars we deploy on lions can be programmed with a virtual fence; otherwise known as a geofence. These virtual fences establish invisible boundaries within or surrounding a specific area. When the lions cross the boundary an alert is sent and we use this information to notify livestock owners that lions are in the area so they can watch their herds more closely or secure them inside a livestock enclosure.

virtual fence

When will the collars come off?

Our collars are fitted with automatic drop-off units, which are scheduled to automatically open the collar after a pre-programmed length of time. We can also trigger this drop-off unit at any time if the collar needs to be removed, such as if the battery dies. This means we should not need to dart the animal again to remove the collar.

Support our work

Please support our work to conserve lions and other large carnivores for future generations. Thank you!

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