Introduced first in 2000, with more units being purchased in 2003, the CyberTracker computer system with its integrated Global Positioning System (GPS) has become an important tool for the rangers in all 22 management sections of the Kruger National Park.
"The CyberTracker (CT) System was developed for application in conservation by Louis Liebenberg, as a user-friendly interface developed for PalmOS computers (http://www.cybertracker.org)," says Sandra MacFadyen, project manager, Geographic Information/Decision Support Systems, on the Sanparks website.
Using icons with English and Shangaan descriptions, data is captured in the field and then downloaded into the park's central geographic information systems (GIS) database. In this way, rangers have collected information ranging from the area covered by routine patrols, poaching activities, the amount of water available at waterholes, fence line breakages, sightings of rare game, and fire mapping.
The rangers are also roped into scientific research programmes, recording on their CyberTracker units the distribution of alien invasive species, the location of beehives, the presence of archaeological remains, wild dog monitoring and many others.
Sandra adds, "The objectives of the CT system are therefore not only to provide all section rangers with a tool for area-integrity-management but also to help provide answers to the various research questions, outlined as objectives and associated Thresholds of Potential Concern (TPC) in the new KNP Management Plan."
Unfortunately, while not likely to be lost in an urban mugging, some of Kruger's CyberTracker units have been damaged during incidents with dangerous animals and due to normal wear and tear. The park is now looking for funds to replace the equipment.
"This equipment has become such an integral part of management and research in the park that it would be devastating to conservation services if we could not replace the units."
A unit costs in the region of R5,720 and the park is hoping to buy 10 units in its first phase of renewing the equipment. "Any donations would be greatly appreciated by Kruger's field rangers, section rangers and managers."
For more information or to make a donation contact Sandra MacFadyen on 013 735 4378 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sightings in December 2006: courtesy cybertracker Sanparks GIS, Sandra MacFadyen