Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

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Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby swazi » Tue Feb 10, 2009 2:48 pm

The last 5 weeks have been very busy with the film crew etc but though some might be interested…

Telemetry:
This study sets out to determine whether translocated black mambas (captured in sugar cane fields and released in protected areas) differ in their movement patterns compared with resident individuals. Black mamba movement is being studied by means of radio-telemetry. Each snake has a transmitter surgically implanted into the body cavity. Each snake is then tracked using a receiver and antenna.

A large number of people are directly involved in this project. Thea Litschka-Koen and Clifton Koen conceived the idea of this project, caught the mambas and organised the logistics. Tigress Productions sponsored six transmitters and funded much of the work. Prof. Mike Perrin sponsored ten transmitters built by Clifford Dearden. Profs. Graham Alexander and Dr. Silke Pfitzer operated on the snakes. The tracking is being coordinated by All Out Africa. Profs. Graham Alexander and Ara Monadjem are the scientific advisors of this project and are responsible for analysing the data and writing up the results.

From Profs. Ara:
Just to let you know that I've spent the past 3 days down at Nisela tracking mambas (while my assistants took a break). What amazing animals and what an amazing project. I located all 10 snakes daily (twice daily Fri and Sat) and got visuals on 8 of the snakes. The other 2 didn't leave their "burrows" (one is in the trunk of a tree). Mduduzi and Elaine got visuals on those 2 earlier in the week. All 8 snakes look healthy and alert. 4 snakes are very much on the move (snakes: 2, 7, 10 and 11). In fact, snake 7 has already left Nisela to the north, although I couldn't get out to track it today (not easy to cross that electric fence...). Hopefully Mduduzi will find it tomorrow. None of the 8 snakes had bulges, suggesting that they haven't eaten yet.

Image

I had never met Profs. Graham Alexander before but what a fantastic person! Sean Thomas was also very much involved with the telemetry and wrangling for the film crew - another super guy. Learnt a lot from them both.

The Tigress crew was absolutely wonderful! Very professional and made us feel at (reasonable) ease in front of the cameras.

Just a few pics:
Image
Image
Image
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby fredsmith » Tue Feb 10, 2009 2:53 pm

Wow.
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby steve » Tue Feb 10, 2009 2:54 pm

wow man thats awesome! what an interesting study. and hey its being filmed, would be nice to see the same thing being done with differant species in the future. anyway great stuff, thanks for sharing this with us.
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby BushSnake » Tue Feb 10, 2009 2:55 pm

Great work! Thea, can I be the geek and ask for some info on the trackers that were used? From what distance can the snakes be picked up, do they work through "burrows", how big and heavy are the transmitters, etc. I can't wait for the results, so please keep us posted!
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby alexander » Tue Feb 10, 2009 3:18 pm

Very interesting study, i would like to see the results as well.

First record of a mamba playing dead lol.
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby armata » Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:32 pm

NIce work; wish I had this facilty back in the 1980s when I did my black mamba study; had to make do with binoculars and a notebook!

I think Tigress want to film some natural behaviour. If they don't get it with Thea then they may come to me to do something in KZN.
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby drummer » Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:49 pm

armata wrote:I think Tigress want to film some natural behaviour. If they don't get it with Thea then they may come to me to do something in KZN.


I better get myself some binoculars and start scoping your old territory, and some new ones! ;)
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby BOOGY » Tue Feb 10, 2009 9:15 pm

way cool,we are busy whith sort of same project since (2007 i think) here in Nelspruit.Chips has been implanted in a number (igy should be able to elaborate more) of Mambas.It cannot be tracked, but caugt Mambas are scanned to confirm chips and are then removed.Recently one was recaught and the data downlouded.It also roughly traveled 3kms.Were eagarly waiting to catch sum more......
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby Bushviper » Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:16 am

I know that Rick Shine was doing research on snake movement and found that snakes that had been captured showed different behaviour after release and did not stay in the exact area where they had been caught. He used to use radio telemetry devices placed in food and then got the snakes to eat this. They would watch to make sure the target snake actually ate the food. It would take a week or so to pass through but during that time they got good results.

I wonder if mambas will be less traumatised by capture and surgery when compared to Aussie snakes? Did you notice any moving away from areas where they have been recorded being resident for a while?
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby swazi » Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:45 pm

I think it too soon to comment but:

1. The anesthesia was very well controlled; they were only anesthetised for about 20min and recovered within a few minutes.
2. 2 types of transmitters were used. 1 – 5 were small, weighing 5gr. 6-10 were bigger weighing 10gr. 1-5 are giving us a better signal even when they are hiding under the ground. Both can be detected 450m but 6-10 emits a rather poor signal when they are underground. With number 6 failing I am worried about 7-10 as well.
3. Most of the snakes stayed in the same area for the first 4-5 days before starting to move around. This can be due to the weather (it was cloudy) or recovery period.
4. They didn’t move too much the first 2 weeks but the last 4 days have been sunny - now they are moving all over the place! The translocated and resident are not showing any kind of consistent pattern, some are staying others are moving quite some distance from the release area. 7, 9, 10 & 11 have moved more than 450m in the last 3 days

If you look at the map:
1. Translocated <100km
2. Translocated <100km
3. Resident
4. Translocated/Resident> 1.5km
5. Resident
6. Transmitter has failed. Back in the park.
7. Translocated/Resident >1km
8. Translocated <100km
9. Translocated <80km
10. Translocated <100km
11. Translocated <100km

Another 15 mambas will be fitted with transmitters (smaller units) by the end of March and will be followed for 9 – 12 months depending on the battery life of the transmitters of course. All we need now is a few more mambas! We have only caught 3 in the last 2 weeks (3 translocated).
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby BOOGY » Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:57 pm

Any news on this project??
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby swazi » Sun Mar 08, 2009 1:06 pm

An update:

The 5 "local" transmitters failed within the first two weeks. One was removed and we found that the aerial had come loose from the battery.

The remaining 5 transmitters (imported) are working very well.

I need to find out if I may put all the data collected here (might be a conflict of interest as the BBC are filming the study), but the translocated snakes seem to be a lot more active and travel up to 500m a day. Resident snakes are moving much less and seem to have settled in or near to where they were originally caught. They move up into trees, down into termite mounds (especially when it’s cold), into hollow logs or just laze around in clumps of grass. None seem to have settled permanently in a specific refuge.

They are all eating and shedding - look healthy and alert.
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby armata » Sun Mar 08, 2009 11:59 pm

I am still a bit concerned about the validity of telemetry results with mambas and other large elapids. In my experience when caught up black mambas desert the refuge and don't come back. Thats why I limited my study to observation, as I am now doing with Cape cobra. Idid manage with the mamba study to ID some individuals away from the refuge.
Just my thoughts.

No problem with adders though.
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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby WW » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:57 am

Tony, that would explain "odd" behaviour in the weeks/months after release, but not differences between translocated and normal animals. Having said that, with only five animals left in the study, any interpretations will have to be a lot more cautious anyway...

Cheers,

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Re: Mamba Telemetry in Swaziland

Postby swazi » Mon Mar 09, 2009 6:00 pm

A PHD student will be running this project from the end of the month with an additional 15-25 snakes (if I can find enough) - results will be much more reliable.

Yes, the current trackers are stomping through the bush like a herd of elephants...

This was just a test run. Now we know which transmitters work the best and have an idea what to expect. The best news so far is that the snakes have survived the surgery, that they recovered well and are hunting. Now we can get serious!

Give us a chance guys - we are new at this tracking through the bush thing (the entire BBC crew went home with tick-bite fever :lol: )

By the way WW, your PM was blank???
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