Dr. Kate Jenks is a Conservation Biologist at the Minnesota Zoo. She was recently in Thailand leading the Zoo’s efforts to save endangered dholes (otherwise known as Asian wild dogs) in partnership with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). The team was hoping to place GPS collars on dholes to track their movement patterns and assess threats to their survival. This work is funded through private contributions to the Minnesota Zoo Foundation and grants to SCBI. Check out the first blog of this series for more background information here.
I’m sitting here trying not to scratch the multitude of angry red bumps I have scattered across my ankles, legs, arms, hands, and neck. We are at Salak Pra Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand, and sleeping in a hammock exposes you to a collection of bug bites. We are waiting, and waiting, and waiting…trying to carefully and safely catch dholes to place GPS collars on three individuals. So far it has been a typical fieldwork trip – getting set up is slow and nothing has gone right!
It is usually the end of the rainy season in Thailand, but we have received heavy rain every day. Have you ever gone camping in the rain for a week? Wet tent, wet shoes, wet clothes, gloomy skies, gloomy moods…. We have not been successful in our attempts to catch dholes and some of the challenges we face include:
- Rain making the roads slick and muddy, which makes it difficult to drive to check our traps (even in a 4-wheel drive truck).
- Rain making the ground sticky and muddy, which clogs the traps and prevents them from working.
- Rain flooding a river crossing that prevents us from checking traps and leaving the sanctuary to purchase fresh bait.
- Rain, rain, rain so that we conduct fieldwork in the rain.
- Biting, swarming ants covering our bait.
- Camera traps that fail and leave us with no record of which animals may have visited the area.
- Elephants curious about our traps and meddling with them in the middle of the night.
- Elephants breaking large sections of bamboo that blocks the road and requires hard work to cut and clear.
- Elephants blocking the road.
- Where are the dholes?
We do have camera-trap photo proof that dholes and a tiger visited and stole bait right out from under our noses. A tiger picked the meat directly off the stake as one would pull an appetizer off a toothpick!