Innovative methods support wildebeest research

Thanks to infrared video recorders and biotelemetry belts such as those used by athletes, researchers can now know exactly how stressed blue wildebeest can become when they are held in bomas prior to being moved.

- Advertisement -

For her research, Dr Liesel Laubscher, who recently received a PhD in Animal Sciences from Stellenbosch University, compared the effect of two long-acting neuroleptics currently used to keep wild animals calm when they are transported over long distances.

In order to do so she had to gather data about the animals’ stress levels when they roam freely and when they are kept in a boma.

This, however, was easier said than done, because data about indicators of stress such as breathing rate, heart rate and movement were not available for these animals when the study began.

- Advertisement -

Laubscher decided to use biotelemetry belts. “It was important to find one that fitted comfortably, could record data accurately and thanks to Bluetooth technology could send the information to a phone or laptop,” she explains.

Two infrared CCTV cameras were used to carefully record the animals’ behaviour inside the boma before and after the sedatives were administered. In this way, Laubscher could for the first time pick up exactly what these animals are doing in captivity.

She found that the animals that the two tranquilizers tested proved equally effective. Animals treated with either of the drugs breathed more slowly and did not easily flee from people who entered the boma.