A story from the WWDI Project Coordinator:
The Waterberg Wild Dog Initiative (WWDI) needs handheld radios to enable communications during field operations. African wild dogs freely range through a mountainous, rugged region of the Waterberg, Limpopo, usually in areas with limited cell network coverage. Compounded by the regular load shedding periods, the lack of a reliable communication channel has made field operations even more challenging. Handheld radios will alleviate this challenge and ensure the WWDI’s fieldwork to monitor and track African wild dogs in the Waterberg can be coordinated as smoothly and successfully as possible.
Over the last few weeks, our team has been hard at work in the field to track and monitor the free-ranging TOOG Area and Melkrivier Area packs, with the goal of fitting new GPS tracking collars to both packs. Maintaining tracking on both packs is a critical component of our work, however, it is also one of the most challenging and expensive tasks our team undertakes.
The areas where the packs range are remote, rugged, and usually don’t have reliable cell network coverage. Coordinating communications between multiple field teams, the veterinary team, and community members can often be more challenging than anything else and adds an additional layer of difficulty when planning field operations.
Last week, our team ran into a major problem when load shedding caused the cell network to go down for two hours during the most important time for communications between our field team and the helicopter flying overhead. Our veterinarian was attempting to dart one of the dogs in the pack from the helicopter and was relying on communication from the field team to locate the pack quickly and direct her efforts. Thankfully, our team planned for the inevitable loss of communications, and the field team was able to visually direct the helicopter to the pack and the collaring was still successful. However, the loss of communications delayed the operation, resulted in not all our team members being able to assist, and resulted in a longer helicopter flight time. With helicopter cost being roughly R8000 per hour, every minute counts.
Handheld radios would have prevented this loss of communication and better streamlined the operation. Please help us raise the funds needed to purchase a set of four radios for our team by purchasing Painted Wolf Wines during their Black Friday Fundraising Event.
-Reilly Mooney, WWDI Project Coordinator