Key to the success of our studies on wild lions is the calibration of our unique SMART (Species Movement, Acceleration, and Radio Tracking) wildlife collar. We use a lab-to-field approach involving collaborations with zoological institutions nationally and internationally. Calibrations take place in two phases:
Development of a behavioral-accelerometer signature library
To correlate accelerometer outputs of the collar with actual animal behaviors, accelerometer data from the SMART collar are matched to time-synched video and diary recordings of instrumented animals moving freely in enclosures and open fields.
Behavior of a wild female lion wearing the SMART collar is monitored by observers. A diary of these behaviors is then used to match wild activities to accelerometer data recorded by the collar (Photo TM Williams).
Example of accelerometer signatures from the SMART collar worn by a mountain lion. Each arrow shows one footfall during running at 4.0 kilometers per hour and fast walking at 3.5 kilometers per hour.
Controlled exercise stride-energetics calibration trials
In this portion of the study, we correlate locomotory events with energetic demands of the lions. This is accomplished by measuring the metabolism of animals from zoological collections that are trained to wear the SMART collar while walking or resting on a treadmill.
Mountain lion trained to walk in a metabolic chamber on a treadmill for energetic calibrations of the SMART collar (Photo Colorado Parks and Wildlife).
Our species specific, calibrated SMART collars are then deployed on free-ranging animals. In this way we are able to monitor the instantaneous behavior and energetics of wild lions moving across the African landscape. We have successfully used these methods to examine a wide variety of exercising mammals including minks, domestic dogs and river otters, wolves, mountain lions and soon African lions and polar bears.
Welcome to our African lion tracker. We are using state-of-the-art tracking collars to follow a number of male coalitions and female prides in Laikipia County Kenya. Data is transmitted via Iridium satellite to our servers in Santa Cruz were we make it available to you to remotely explore the lives of these amazing animals. How far do lions move in a day? How big are their home ranges? Who is courting who? Here you can explore the data and answer these and many more of your questions about lion biology. Over time we will also add more features to explore the data in new ways. So keep coming back to see what is new. Please note that we delay the data by 7 days for the public to protect the current location of the animals. Current data is shared with local landowners, however, so they can do their best to avoid confrontation between livestock and lions.