Research and monitoring of endangered species is crucial to understand their behaviour and therefore design the best strategies for protecting them. Research is lacking on many of the species we protect, and we work to fill these gaps through the support of several long-term research studies. The findings of such studies have an impact well beyond any singular project, helping inform protection strategies across the species range.
As well as longer-term research projects, the monitoring of individual animals and of high poaching areas is also a key part of our work to protect endangered wildlife. GPS collaring and tagging, camera traps, and the use of monitoring software such as EarthRanger, are all integral to monitoring animals and in building up a better picture of their behaviours and habitats. They also enable us to respond rapidly to poaching and other incidents, and to stop wildlife from straying into communities.
In Kenya, our conservation partners are undertaking ground-breaking research to understand the behaviour of pangolins. Pangolins are a relatively under-researched and misunderstood species, and this research project will be integral to the wider protection of the species.
The project focuses on the giant pangolin, the most endangered of the pangolin species in Africa, and with only two known populations remaining in Kenya. The research – which monitors the pangolins through GPS tags, camera traps, and on foot monitoring, will establish the home ranges, reproductive habitats, and burrow use of the pangolins. It will also establish a more reliable population estimate and provide a greater understanding of the threats affecting pangolins and how to mitigate them.
Snow Leopards are one of the least understood and studied of the big cats, and DSWF funding is at the forefront of international efforts to increase scientific knowledge.
In southern Mongolia, we fund a long-term ecological study of snow leopards aimed at understanding the ecology, ranges, and populations of these elusive big cats. This is the longest running and most extensive research project of this type in the world and will ultimately lead to the most robust population assessment of snow leopards in any of the cats’ range countries.
GPS collaring and camera traps are extensively used to monitor individuals and snow leopard families over time, delivering key insights into their behaviour and reproductive rates. Collaring and camera trap surveys are also conducted for the snow leopard’s main prey, ibex. Understanding the population and behaviour of their prey is crucial information, as it is a key determinant of snow leopard population levels.
In Zambia, elephants from the project’s orphanage are closely monitored as they are gradually released back in to the wild. Due to their traumatic past, and being brought up in a managed environment, it is particularly important to track their behaviour once they are back in the wild. This enables the project to gain crucial information regarding the elephants’ movements, as well as their feeding and social integration. It also enables them to evaluate and improve the entire rehabilitation process. The collars are also incredibly important for reducing human-elephant conflict. Geofences (virtual fences) are created surrounding community areas, and if an elephant with a collar crosses the fence, then rangers are quickly deployed to deal with the situation. Additionally, a “streaking” alert function notifies our project partners when there is a sudden increase in elephant movements suggesting a threat, such as poachers.
In national parks across Vietnam, our project partners make extensive use of camera traps to monitor pangolin populations, as well as to catch poachers. In Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai World Heritage in Thailand, bi-monthly tiger surveys are a key element of monitoring one of the last remaining strongholds of Indochinese tigers in the world. In Namibia, our ground-based conservation partners, through extensive patrols, collect essential sightings data on the world’s largest remaining population of free-ranging black rhinos, as well as providing a deterrent to poachers. In Zimbabwe, despite ongoing challenges regarding the cost and durability of GPS collars, ground-based teams are able to closely monitor the painted dog packs and to respond rapidly to the all too frequent incidences of snaring.
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DSWF has been supporting the Wildlife Programme in Zambia (previously known as the Elephant Orphanage Project) since 2007. The programme rescues elephants from the wild who have been orphaned, rehabilitates them, and then gradually releases them back into the wild. Find out more.
Sometimes, rapid, short-term funding is required to deal with emergency wildlife situations. We work with all our conservation partners on the ground to deal with such situations when they arise, and we are nimble enough to respond rapidly when the situation demands it. Find out more here.
DSWF believes in the conservation of all wildlife and wild spaces and does not condone the consumptive use of wildlife and natural resources for the benefit of human greed and curiosity. DSWF’s conservation portfolio primarily focusses on eight core species of endangered and threatened mammals across Africa and Asia. Find out more about these species here.