Now that the dry season is nearly upon us, it has become much easier for us to go out into the bush to conduct our necessary ecological fieldwork. Each month, we conduct a variety of different game counts to monitor the health and population statuses of the prey species that cheetahs and other local carnivores target. This becomes tricky when the roads are very muddy, especially when driving night counts! Fortunately the rains are now stopping and we are able to drive without fear of getting stuck in the middle of the bush.
So far in April, we have already completed our circuit counts, which are where we drive on set routes around CCF farms that contain a variety of different habitats. We were lucky enough on the last night count to spot not just one, but two aardwolves! Aardwolves are the smallest of the hyena family, but unlike their cousins, do not hunt large prey. Instead, they target termites and other small insects. It is just as important for us to monitor the population statuses of other carnivores within the CCF area alongside cheetahs to determine whether the ecosystem is working as a functional unit. Every organism in a healthy ecosystem plays an integral role in the overall maintenance of the system, therefore, as ecologists, we are interested in understanding how diverse our land and how complex the food web is.
Night counts are the best time to see most carnivores, as many of them prefer hunting in low lights that provide a cover of darkness for effective hunting. Also whilst on the same game count, we came across two separate small spotted genets, which are cat-like mammals related to civets, fossa and mongooses. It is good to see that other carnivore species appear to be doing well on CCF land!
All the best,
Cheetah Conservation Fund