Salama Cheetah Trapping - with live goats and Robo Goat

ACK Mary's picture
Thu, 2009-04-09 21:20 by ACK Mary · Forum/category:
setting up a goat enclosure Peter Barber and Cosmas Wambua checking traps Robo Goat set-up with trap completed trap site

Live Baiting the Cheetah

In July and August of 2008 we used live goats in an attempt to lure cheetahs near three trap locations. We built protective enclosures for the goats using thorny fences and wire mesh. We hoped that the movement and vocalizations of the goats would naturally draw the cheetahs toward the trap area. We used this method on two occasions for all three of our selected trap locations.

We noticed that as soon as we left the trap area, the goats quieted. We cannot be sure if the goats vocalized at night. We found cheetah tracks less than a kilometer from the trap sites, but the prints did not head toward the trap area. Because of this evidence, we assume that the goats were silent. Soon after this experience, the idea for Robo Goat was born.

Robo Goat

Several advisors assisted in the construction of Robo Goat. Robo Goat was built to attract the cheetah using movement and sound. Robo Goat bleats at a variety of levels twenty-four hours a day. The bleating sound system is housed within a wire frame covered by a white goat skin. Robo Goat's head pivots to add movement.

We deployed Robo Goat on March 10th. On the day of deployment, herders saw cheetahs drinking at a cattle water point, and we saw tracks along a fence line. Robo Goat has been bleating and moving since, but we have seen no more signs of cheetah.

Setting the Traps in Salama

We set traps in Salama and have been monitoring them for about three weeks now. The goal of the trapping is to deploy radio collars. Due to concern for the security of our equipment, we decided on trapping in ranches that have regular security, the Kima and Staneley ranches. The ranches of Aimi and Malili are in a two year drought, and the people of the area are hungry and desperate. We did not feel that our property would be safe in that region.

Cheetah scouts selected three sites to trap on the Kima and Staneley ranches. These locations had the most recent cheetah sightings. Two locations were close enough to be in sight of each other, so we used live goats there, hoping that they would call back and forth. We provided the goats with food and water. We visited the sites several times each day, but looked at the trap doors from a distance to avoid disturbing the area.

We placed Robo Goat at the third location with the battery and power converter about 30m from the trap. We checked the door to the trap several times a day, but only approached Robo Goat every two days to change the battery.

Trap Site Adventures

March 13 - We arrived at one of the goat enclosures for feeding. We opened the gate to enter the pen, but the goat pushed its way past the edge of the gate, and ran into the bushes! That evening we returned to the pen with a new goat. We hoped that the calling of the new goat would draw the escaped goat back to the pen. We spread word that the lost goat belonged to Lumumba and announced a reward for the return of the goat.

March 14 - Both live goats were stolen. The regular security of the Kima ranch was not enough to protect the goats. This blow to the project was difficult to bear, both for morale and finances.

March 18 - After a short trip to Nairobi for supplies, we returned to reset the traps. We moved one of the traps to a different location on the Staneley ranch. The new site was more secure, and we knew that cheetahs had killed goats near the boundary. At the Kima site we improved security by using chains and padlocks to hold the gate closed.

March 26 - Fed and watered goats this evening. No sign of cheetah at the trap locations.

March 27 - Checked all traps using binoculars. They were empty.

March 28 - Found the locks broken at the Kima trap and the goat stolen. We discovered cheetah tracks along the road between Robo Goat and the live goat traps at the Staneley ranch. Each trap was about one kilometer away from the cheetah prints. We felt disappointed about the stolen goat, but excited about the cheetah prints and the potential for trapping one at our remaining sites.

March 29 - We continue to monitor the trap sites. We will keep the traps open until the April rains arrive. We will need to close the traps during the approaching season of rain. After the roads become passable again, we will reactivate Robo Goat and trap in another community area.

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