Last month, I visited Dotty, a rescued leopard who is under rehabilitation in preparation for her release back to the wild. Dotty was rescued in Tsavo East National Park by a Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) ranger when she was barely two weeks old. Her eyes had not even fully opened. The ranger brought her to Tsavo Trust, a conservation organization located near the national park and KWS officials gave the necessary approvals to raise Dotty with the intention of releasing her back into the wild. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) partners with Tsavo Trust, and we’re providing resources and expertise for her care and rehabilitation.

Now a year and a half old, Dotty has shown an interest in spending more time on her own in the wild, so we designed a specific Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) plan for her. The PRM plan will allow us to collect data on her habitat selection, home range size, activity patterns, human avoidance, individual behavior, survival and, if the worst happens, cause-specific mortality. This information will give us insights into how well the rehabilitation process prepared Dotty for release.

There’s an old adage in business that says “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Essentially, if you do not define success and measure your progress towards it, you will not make any necessary changes to your process. This statement is true particularly for IFAW’s wildlife rescue objectives which are to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife into secure habitats. The Post Release Monitoring is how we measure the success of the individual rehabilitated animals.

Our success is defined as an animal having similar outcomes to its wild counterparts. In short, we work to ensure they successfully:

  • feed themselves the appropriate wild foods
  • behave in ways that are socially acceptable to other members of their species
  • avoid humans
  • reproduce

Dotty’s PRM plan includes the use of a GPS collar to track her movements remotely. The collar sends out a signal at timed intervals to notify us of her location. It can also be used to track how fast she’s moving. From this information we can make educated guesses about when she’s sleeping, roaming her territory or even when she is successful at a hunt. We plan to deploy camera traps to catch images of Dotty and other species in her territory. With each milestone during her release, we look forward to one day seeing images of her with cubs, as we recently did for an Amur tiger that IFAW released in 2014 in Russia.

We will keep you updated on Dotty’s progress.

–MW

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Article source: IFAW

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