AboutZoos, Since 2008


Golden age” of ani­mal track­ing just about began

pub­lished 23 June 2015 | mod­i­fied 23 June 2015

Sloth with tracking deviceAni­mals wear­ing new tag­ging and track­ing devices give a real-​time look at their behav­iour and at the envi­ron­men­tal health of the planet, say research asso­ciates at the Smith­son­ian Trop­i­cal Research Insti­tute in the recent issue of Sci­ence magazine.

We sug­gest that a golden age of ani­mal track­ing sci­ence has begun,” they pre­dict. “The upcom­ing years will be a time of unprece­dented, excit­ing discoveries.”

Dri­ven, in part, by con­sumer demand in the past five years, radio-​tracking tech­nol­ogy has been replaced by smaller GPS tags that allow sci­en­tists to accu­rately track vastly larger num­bers of ani­mals and use satel­lites to track indi­vid­u­als as they move across the globe.

The upcom­ing years will be a time of unprece­dented, excit­ing discoveries

Ani­mals are fit­ted with mul­ti­ple sen­sors to keep track of their health and energy use and to even mon­i­tor their brain waves. Researchers can com­bine this infor­ma­tion with weather data and other remotely mon­i­tored infor­ma­tion about the envi­ron­ment, as well as mon­i­tor com­plex inter­ac­tions among entire groups of animals.

Three of the Sci­ence article’s four authors, Roland Kays, Mar­garet Cro­foot and Mar­tin Wikel­ski first worked together at the Smithsonian’s Barro Col­orado Island Research Sta­tion in Panama to develop an Auto­mated Radio Teleme­try Sys­tem (ARTS), using tow­ers with radio receivers to track ani­mals as they moved through the dense, trop­i­cal low­land forest.

The ARTS project began in 2002 as a joint project between the Smith­son­ian, Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity and the New York State Museum with sup­port from long-​standing donor and men­tor Frank Levin­son. At the time, to track a sin­gle ani­mal, a sci­en­tist wav­ing an antenna would crash through jun­gle veg­e­ta­tion, fol­low­ing a radio sig­nal com­ing from the animal’s radio col­lar. The tracker often dis­turbed the ani­mal in the process. By the time the ARTS project ended in 2010, researchers could remotely track up to 200 ani­mals at a time, 24/​7, and visu­al­ize their move­ments on the Internet.

The ARTS project’s team of sci­en­tists, post-​docs and stu­dents tracked white-​faced capuchin mon­keys, ocelots, sloths, bats, agoutis and even orchid bees, mak­ing huge strides in under­stand­ing their social lives and their roles in the ever-​changing trop­i­cal for­est ecosystem.

The authors con­tend that the mas­sive amount of ani­mal move­ment data now becom­ing avail­able can be used as a form of “quo­rum sens­ing.” Each ani­mal acts as a sen­sor. Together the com­bined move­ment and health data from ani­mals all around the planet pin­point envi­ron­men­tal hazards.

Under­stand­ing move­ment is vital for bio­di­ver­sity research, pre­dict­ing con­ser­va­tion hotspots, iden­ti­fy­ing human-​animal con­flict zones, rebuild­ing and sus­tain­ing pro­duc­tive fish­eries and ecosys­tems and under­stand­ing the spread of pan­demic dis­ease and inva­sive species. The Smith­son­ian has long played a role in con­ven­ing in-​house experts and strate­gic out­side partners.

The researchers pub­lished their ideas on the usage and the pos­si­ble appli­ca­tion of big data ani­mal track­ing in the 12 June issue of Sci­ence.

(Source: Smith­son­ian news release, 12.06.2015)

UN Biodiversity decade
WWF Stop Wildlife Crime
Fight for Flight campaign
End Ivory-funded Terrorism
Support Rewilding Europe
NASA State of Flux

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
Fol­low me on: