Tag Archives: Tracking

Leopard Tracking in the Swartberg

Objective of the flight

To track and download data from collared leopards in the Swartberg range of the Western Cape.

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Kgalagadi Cheetah Tracking


Mission: Kgalagadi Cheetah Tracking
Date: 31 January 2009
Requesting organisation: Gus Mills and the Kgalagadi Cheetah Project
Location: Kgalagadi Reserve, Northern Cape
Pilot: Andre van Niekerk

The Bateleurs has again undertaken to support the work of Gus Mills and the Kgalagadi Cheetah Project by providing regular flights to track and record, via GPS, the movements of a number of collared cheetah in the Kgalagadi Reserve.  The first of these flights in 2009 took place on 31st January, and we are very pleased and proud to report that it was flown by a brand new Bateleurs volunteer member, Andre van Niekerk, based in Upington.  This is the report we received from Gus Mills:

Photo:  One of the Kgalagadi cheetahs with her cubs.

“Because of the large ranges of Kgalagadi cheetahs it is extremely helpful to be able to track our radio-collared animals from the air.  On Saturday 31st January, Andre van Niekerk a new Bateleurs pilot from Upington, kindly gave up his time to do a tracking flight in his Robinson 44 helicopter.  It was a very hot day and even with the helicopter door off, and at 2,000 feet above ground, the air was hot!  However, between 09h30 and 11h00 we covered most of the southern area of the park and managed to locate six of our collared cats – something that would have taken us at least two days to do from the ground, and with no guarantee that we would have found all of them. The only disappointment was that we did not find one of our females with a large cub up near Mata Mata.  I have subsequently heard that she is in the area so it seems that there may be a problem with her collar. Hopefully, as it is a new collar, it has simply drifted slightly off frequency.

The most interesting observation was to find two males deep inside the territory of two other males.  This is most unusual. We also located the resident males about 12 km from them. We have spent the last two days following these males and although they have started to move back to their own territory, they are still inside that of the original two.  Fortunately these territories are large, several hundred square kilometres, so the two rival groups have not met up.  If they did there would be trouble!  The question is why?  At the moment we are at a loss to understand this, but we will try to monitor the situation. Unfortunately we have had to leave them today because we need to go out tomorrow to check up on one of the females we located, to see if she has cubs.

Normally we expect to find all the animals, but not having found the female near Mata Mata, whose collar may be malfunctioning, led to our failing to find our most wide-ranging female. We spent  more time than usual searching for the Mata Mata cheetah, and so did not have enough time to locate the other wide-ranging female. Nevertheless the mission was a great success and is hugely appreciated.”

Tracking Cheetah in the Kgalagadi


Mission: Cheetah Tracking at the Kgalagadi
Date: 10 January 2008
Requesting organisation: Gus Mills and the Kgalagadi Cheetah Project

Location: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape
Pilot: Willie Snyman

Bateleur pilot, Willie Snyman (left) and Gus Mills of the Kgalagadi Cheetah Project, with Willie’s helicopter in the background.

Tracking the elusive cheetahs in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, by Gus Mills

“The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Cheetah Project is aimed at identifying the ecological role, behavioural adaptations, demographic parameters, conservation status and threats to the cheetah in the southern Kgalagadi ecosystem.

An important aspect of this study is to understand the movement patterns of the cheetahs. To this end a number of cheetah have been fitted with radio collars. Although we expected the cheetah to range widely in this arid system, we did not expect them to move quite as extensively as they do. The females appear to be especially wide-ranging,  covering areas well in excess of 1 500 km². So even with radio collars we can usually only detect a signal from 5 – 10 km from the ground.
The solution, therefore, is to get into the air from where the line-of-site transmitters can be picked up from 30km or more, and from where it is possible to cover large areas much more quickly than plodding through the dunes in a vehicle. For this reason we have turned to The Bateleurs for help and are most grateful for the positive way in which this difficult request has been approached. It is difficult, not only because the Kalahari is far away from flight centres, but also because this is a request for frequent help, not a one-off situation.”

cheetahs2_jan08Two of the elusive cheetah on a sand dune in the Kgalagadi

“On Thursday 10th January 2008 we did our first Bateleur flight, with local farmer Willie Snyman as the volunteer pilot, in his wonderful Robinson 44 helicopter. We were particularly interested in locating two females which we have not seen for some time – Thelma who was last seen on 01 October 2007 and who then had two small cubs in a den, and D’Urbyl, a female who was collared on 1 November. Despite flying for two hours over the areas where we last saw these two females we unfortunately were not able to pick up a signal. However, we did locate a single male, Harken, and John and Allen, a two-male coalition, so the flight was well worthwhile.

We look forward to many more flights with Willie and other pilots, and I am sure that sooner or later our luck will change and we will find the missing females. One thing is certain, we have a far better chance of doing so from the air than from the ground.”