Research Note

GPS tracking cattle as a monitoring tool for conservation and management

Published in: African Journal of Range & Forage Science
Volume 34, issue 3, 2017 , pages: 173–177
DOI: 10.2989/10220119.2017.1387175
Author(s): Jennifer M SchieltzDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, USA, Sharon OkangaDepartment of Entomology, USA, Brian F AllanDepartment of Entomology, USA, Daniel I RubensteinDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, USA

Abstract

The emergence of GPS technology has resulted in significant advances in the ease and flexibility of studying animal movement patterns, yet barriers remain to the widespread use of GPS units for animal tracking. Here, we developed a low-cost, logistically simple approach, deploying small and inexpensive GPS units to monitor cattle movements and habitat use and to assess the impact of cattle grazing on vegetation. Cattle were collared with i-gotU loggers to track fine-scale and broad-scale movements within an integrated ecosystem (cattle and wildlife) in Laikipia, central Kenya. At the fine scale, cattle exerted a significant impact on vegetation quantity and quality; increasing grazing intensity showed a negative relationship to grass height, but a positive correlation to green-up after rain. At the broad scale, cattle movement density varied notably by herd type and habitat availability, with acacia woodland and savanna grassland habitats used most predominantly. Overall, these small GPS loggers provided a flexible and relatively cheap method of tracking cattle movements, and demonstrated potential for collaring of cattle as a tool for monitoring ecosystem health and assisting management decisions.

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