The Cheetah Conservation Fund ecology team works across large landscapes with a single cheetah’s home covering up to 2000km².
Due to the immense landscape, the team is often taken off the beaten path and into the heart of rural communities. Those working for the Cheetah Conservation Fund know that when they see the network bars on their mobile phones slowly drop down one by one until it reads ‘no signal’ that they are heading in the right direction. Not only does the phone signal disappear but the teams also leave behind the tar roads and head into areas where roads are made of mud, gravel and rocks.
Namibia is a semi-arid country which means that it is very hot and water is limited making it a harsh environment to work in, especially if you have no way to reach out to the outside world. It is also a border where livestock and cheetahs meet and where human-carnivore conflict is at its highest, here is where the team is at risk and need to be vigilant.
Namibia has a population of 2.3 million people and they are spread over a huge variety of landscapes from the Savanna and forests in the north to the deserts in the south, which all have their unique challenges to overcome when conducting field research. Recently the teams working in the field have experienced flash flooding which cuts off road access, forcing them to travel long distances on slippery muddy roads, all the while knowing that they had no phone signal to make an emergency call if required.
However, due to the generosity of AST Systems Ltd who supplied the teams at the Cheetah Conservation Fund airtime for our Iridium satellite handset, we no longer feel alone and wherever we are in Namibia we know that we can always make a phone call. As the team leader and the person responsible for my team’s safety, I know that being able to make a phone call is the difference between a situation turning from manageable to an emergency. It gives us all peace of mind as we head off across Namibia to undertake our vital research that is helping to keep the cheetah in the wild now and for future generations, we always have a signal.
We no longer fear the unknown we embrace it.
By Dr. Louisa Richmond-Coggan, Ecology Manager