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New tracking devices can help monitor the world’s wildlife

Goshawk with movetech device

A revolutionary new series of lightweight, long-lasting and low-cost wildlife tracking devices has been developed to enable scientists around the globe to monitor more wildlife.

The joint project between the University of East Anglia (UEA), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Universities of Lisbon and Porto, was initiated because the need to follow animals is increasing as more adapt to a changing environment. By understanding their whole lifecycle, conservation strategies can be developed to help give them a more secure future.

The Movetech Telemetry devices are designed to collect detailed information about the behaviour of wildlife, which is transmitted to researchers using the mobile phone network. This means that, once fitted to an animal, there is no need to recapture it to retrieve the data. The addition of advanced solar cells makes it possible to track animals more efficiently in less sunny northern locations.

The new tags can be used on animals weighing as little as 600g, around the weight of a medium-sized gull, and will transmit vital data for up to 12 months, relaying details of exactly what the animal does and precisely where it is at any given time.

Dr Aldina Franco, a senior lecturer in Ecology at the School of Environmental Sciences, UEA, said: “With these devices we can track a large number of species, for example, white storks in Portugal or gull species here in the UK, but its applications reach far wider. We can study the movements of urban species and the impact of wind farms on birds’ welfare and behaviour, as well as monitoring the success of conservation projects.”

“The number of animal movement studies has grown exponentially in recent years, and an estimated 1,500 birds in the UK alone were fitted with tracking devices in 2015,” said Dr Phil Atkinson from the British Trust for Ornithology. “The demand for smaller, lighter tracking devices is large and Movetech Telemetry devices will enable researchers and conservationists to gather more data and answer more questions than ever before.”

Dr Joao Paulo Silva, from CIBIO-InBIO, University of Porto, and cE3c, Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, said: “These new devices provide accurate locations and accelerometer information, allowing scientists to identify the behaviour of the animals – even identifying, for example, when a bird is feeding. What’s more, you can see all this happening while sitting in front of the computer!”

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