Fresh Poops

ACK Mary's picture
Sun, 2012-11-25 20:44 by ACK Mary · Forum/category:
Nelson, Jimmy and Morgan collecting a fecal sample in Athi-Kapiti study area

The fecal project has had a couple of set-backs.

After collecting a fresh scat, Deanna and Mandela realized that the freezer at the research station had shut off. The plug may have been loosened when the area was cleaned. It is not known how long the freezer was off, but it was long enough for the scats collected in July – August to mold. The samples can still be used for hair analysis, but they are no longer useable for hormone analysis.

The freezer was cleaned and bleached … leaving the staff in Salama with the task of starting fresh poop searches all over again. Three samples were found in the first week after the freezer was restarted. Dry samples continued to be collected for the hair analysis.

Morgan worked with the Smithsonian advisors to create a protocol for drying future dry samples before freezing to keep the samples from molding if this happens again, and to make the samples lighter for shipping. Deanna enjoyed the task of drying the fresh poop samples in the toaster oven … NOT!

Back in August, Morgan and Nelson spent time with the laboratory staff from KWS and determined that the lab in Nairobi will not be ready in time to analyze the samples for the current Masters papers. Morgan is requesting to ship all scats found from now through next July to SCBI for the hormone analysis. We are seeking funding to bring KWS staff to SCBI for training on radio-assay protocol with the hope that we will be able to assist KWS in development of the lab for future work to be conducted in country.

Lab work will soon begin and will first confirm that the dry scats collected are really cheetah. Washed hairs from the samples will then be used to determine the prey selected by cheetahs in both the Salama and Athi-Kapiti areas.

These reports will not be completed until mid to end of 2013 … poop work is not easy. One has to have a passion for poop to choose this career … but the information is extremely valuable for the future decisions in conservation management for cheetahs.