GPS Tracking Zebras – Studying Wildlife Movements With GPS
Scientists are beginning to better understand the socialization patterns and importance of interaction among zebra populations after GPS tracking system collars were used to monitor the movements of the black and white striped animals. Scientists are hoping that the GPS tracking data collected will help them discover why the more socially interactive plains zebra populations are stronger and thriving more than the Grevy’s zebras, which are endangered.
Dan Rubenstein, an ecologist at Princeton University, explains that the plains and Grevy’s zebras have very similar appearances and characteristics in the way they act, but the plains have a more well-built social network. For example, the plains zebras will organize themselves to create stable communities where sometimes a single stallion will keep watch over a large group of babies. The plains zebras look out for one another, unlike the Grevy’s zebras who form small social-interactive groups that will quickly dissolve over time. With real time GPS tracking system collars monitoring both groups, the ecologists are hoping to gather the information that can help explain the phenomenon.
Key Discoveries From GPS Tracking of Zebras
GPS tracking technology has revolutionized the way researchers study wildlife movements, including those of zebras. By using GPS devices to track the movements of individual zebras over time, scientists have gained new insights into their behaviors and migration patterns. Here are some key discoveries that have been made from GPS tracking of zebras:
- Zebras migrate up to 700 miles in search of water and food.
- Some zebras undertake journeys that last up to four months.
- Zebras follow consistent paths year after year during their migrations.
- Zebras’ migration patterns are impacted by changes in weather and vegetation.
- Males lead and navigate the herds during migrations.
- Zebras use specific landmarks as navigational cues.
- GPS tracking can help identify critical habitats and migration corridors.
- Zebra populations are declining due to habitat loss and human encroachment.
- Conservation efforts, informed by GPS tracking data, can help protect zebra populations.
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Scientists Use GPS Collars For Zebra Monitoring
The team of scientists is using GPS collars to pinpoint and map the movements and social interactions between the groups of zebras, and then graph the tracking system data to show the structure and strength of the communities. The preliminary results from the GPS trackers showed that the Grevy’s zebras tend to socialize in small cliques, and sometimes for short periods of time. “This is extremely exciting and interesting information that we gathered from the GPS tracking devices because maybe someday soon we can understand things such as when a lion tries to attack why a particular zebra leads the stampede toward safety”, said Rubenstein.
The GPS tracking system collars provide very accurate data about everywhere a zebra has been and their movement patterns. Rubenstein stated that without the GPS tracking systems monitoring the zebra’s movements continuously that the research would have come along much slower and may not have been as precise. Rubenstein’s colleagues have recently placed 12 more GPS tracking collars on zebras in Kenya that will record the animal’s movements throughout the day and night.
Rubenstein and his team are hoping to receive more funding for the research project to purchase more GPS collars so they can have a larger sample size of zebras being monitored and GPS-tracked.