Thanks to Halewood International, South African energy-drink and alcoholic beverage manufacturers, the Kruger National Park CyberTracker Programme has received an 'energy boost' in the form of eight new handheld computers. The CyberTracker system allows literate and illiterate field rangers to record information on their sightings while out in the field for later download into Kruger's management databases.
The CyberTracker system was developed for application in conservation by Louis Liebenberg. It is a user-friendly interface for handheld computers (PDAs) that incorporates a GPS to give customised latitude and longitude descriptions.
Douw Swanepoel, Olifants section ranger at the time, first recognised the potential of CyberTracker as an ecological data collection tool for KNP management in early 2000. Assisted financially by the German technical cooperation organisation, GTZ, and Sappi, he was able to purchase 44 Palm IIIe organisers and accompanying Garmin 12XL GPS units with Palm/GPS interface cables.
In 2003 further funds were donated from the Erna Goodwin estate, enabling the purchase of 120 Handspring Visor Deluxe organisers with integrated Magellan GPS companions. Each of Kruger's 22 management sections were issued with five of these devices for deployment with field rangers.
Five additional devices were issued to Skukuza's Scientific Services division for various other research projects. The system was customised in-house with an icon-based interface with English and Shangaan descriptions for the collection of daily patrol information.
This information is used by KNP management in planning section patrols for area-integrity management; as an early warning system for disease outbreaks; in order to identify trends in exit and entry points for poachers; the management and control of invasive species as well as reporting fence-breaks to the veterinary department for animal health purposes.
The scientists use the information for the monitoring of rare species such as roan and sable; invasive species research; fire mapping; archaeological inventory; identifying species distribution patterns and so forth. The programme is however, in dire need of funding in order to replace the now ailing Handspring Visor devices.
To support the programme, Halewood International South Africa has donated eight new Palm Tungsten W handheld devices, as well as a supply of their Red Square Reload energy drink, to ensure the rangers are technologically equipped and energised. Halewood is one of the leading alcoholic beverage and energydrink manufacturers in South Africa, with brands such as Red Square, Caribbean Twist and Shakers.
Mike Veysie, managing director of Halewood announced, "The company is privileged to be able to help in a small way by giving something back to a worthwhile cause. We value the work that is being done by the Kruger Park rangers and the benefits that the data collected will have on managing our eco-systems and South Africa's immense wildlife heritage". The devices donated by Halewood will be used by Scientific Services until such time as cordless blue-tooth GPS units can be purchased and the devices distributed to the appropriate sections.
By Sandra Mac Fadyen
In Kruger National Park