A newly developed solar-powered animal tracker will help animal conservation efforts.
Researchers at the University College Dublin (UCD) conducted a study over the course of 18 months. They tested the new device which was initially created with vultures in mind. It has now been altered so it can work with large herbivores, too, like giraffes, oryxes, wild horses, and elephants.
At the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science’s Laboratory of Wildlife Ecology and Behaviour, Emma Hart says that the new devices include the same amount of power in a smaller package:
Incorporating solar panels allowed animals to be tagged with smaller and lighter GPS devices without losing any of the functionality of larger devices.Emma Hart
Animal welfare rules say that devices may not weigh more “than 2-5% of an animal’s bodyweight.” Many animals are so small that most battery-powered tracking devices won’t work for them. Also, different types of animal bodies can make larger devices unfeasible. For instance, a giraffe’s neck can’t support the same collar-style device as a lion’s neck.
Previous trackers have been great for conservation efforts but concerning for animal welfare. The data the trackers gather about animals’ locations, behaviours, and environments helps researchers as they study the different species. But individual animals have to struggle through the tagging process.
The tagging process may mean stress for animals when they are captured and restrained and sometimes sedated. However, these new lighter devices also have longer lifespans. This should mean fewer stress-inducing encounters:
Devices with longer lifespans will potentially lead to a greater quantity and quality of data collected per individual captured and a reduced frequency of recaptures for removal or replacement of failed devices.Emma Hart
UCD, Dartmouth College, and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation in Namibia joined forces for a recent test of the devices. They learned that the devices could work for a larger variety of animals and continue to work for the duration of the animals’ lifespans.
Once the devices were charged, they “maintained high voltage throughout the testing,” even when there was “little or no solar energy.”
With these new trackers that will help individual animals while gathering essential data, species being studied will be much better off.
Article source: Phys.org
Featured image source: University College Dublin