Our field teams are comprised of rangers living in bongo-preferred forest-adjacent communities. Most of these rangers are reformed hunters and poachers, who have converted to the side of conservation and become bongo trackers. When the rangers go into the forest, they use a variety of tracking techniques including:
De Snaring Patrols
These foot patrols include a search for illegal activities including neck snares, spring leg traps, animal skins and other signs of hunting. Anything detected is dismantled and destroyed. All illegal activities are gps mapped to aid in the understanding of patterns of illegal activities. The teams will also dismantle charcoal kilns, and document timber harvesting sites.
Camera traps automatically take pictures of anything that moves in front of the camera lens. This means that they can be set up on a tree in the forest for weeks and months at a time, and be taking photos without the need for a human to operate the camera. We set up cameras in preferred bongo habitat – watering spots, natural salt licks, and game trails – and document any individuals that we find in front of the camera.
We try to identify the bongos that our traps capture in pictures. We can determine if it is an adult animal or a youngster; we can determine if it is a male or a female, and sometimes we can study the features of the animal and be able to individually identify it. Many more times however, we cannot do this – some of our photos are taken at night, and many are taken from different angles – so often we dont know too much at all about the animals that we see in our camera traps.
We use handheld gps units to document locations of bongo footprints, droppings, scratching posts, and more. We also document all illegal activities that we find and we plot all of these things on forest maps to help us to create a picture of what is happening and where it is happening. By mapping the bongo signs from camera traps and from footprints etc., we can determine ranging patterns and preferred habitats..
Our local trackers are integrated within their home communities. They can use their locations to their advantage to detect information about illegal activities going on inside the forest.
At times our trackers are asked to work at community meetings on bongo education and / or more general information about the value of tree planting, forest security, forest and biodiversity conservation..
Other possible Bongo Surveillance Activities:-
- 1. Provide a Protection and monitoring zone at each identified bongo Hot Spot.
- 2. Baseline Surveys, aimed at verifying reports of new herds of bongo.
- 3. Undertake comprehensive mapping of current / potential habitat.
- 4. Collect data / photographs – setting up of camera traps, establishing a library of recognizable bongo to establish population estimates.
- 5. Dung sample collection: collection of bongo dung samples and other samples (Hair, Tissue) with GPS coordinates. Or handheld photographic evidence
- 6. Assist with demographic, ecological and distribution data.