Nov 2011: Tagging Okulunu with a GPS/GSM unit
A dorsal scale behind the animal's shoulders was selected for attachment of the extra GPS/GSM combination tracking box, 3 scales forward of the scale carrying its small RF transmitter tag. Two small holes were drilled through the scale, ensuring the animal was protected under the scale during the process to take the two attachment bolts and locking nuts from which the box trails. After clipping small pieces, which were kept for DNA analyses, off the neighbouring scales to ensure that the scales' movements were not restricted by the device, the extra tracking box was attached successfully by Bruno and Tim, using long-nosed pliers and spanners. Okulunu was then taken back to the GPS coordinates of its capture and re-released on the friendly neighbour's property- within 24 hours of its capture very early in that morning of the same day, Nov 7th. Finally turning in to sleep late that night, Paul was able to phone the combination unit and receive an update of its GPS coordinates including signal strength and then unit's battery level from his bed! This must be a first in pangolin tracking!
The following night Nov. 8th, after a heavy thunderstorm and rain heralding start of the wet season, Emiel and Paul decided to revisit Okulunu to watch from a distance- the first chance they had both had to observe a pangolin foraging in its natural habitat. By 10:30, the RF tag's signals were detected using the Yagi aerial, and when the combination device's next GSM window opened, Paul was able to activate SMS transmissions carrying Okulunu's GPS coordinates. These showed the animal was moving. Entering the coordinates into a Garmin GPS as a new navigation waypoint, then walking direct to Okukulu was easy, using the Yagi for the last 10m of animal location. This demonstrates the potential of the prototype system for pangolin tracking work and behavioural observations in the wild.