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Keeping a closer eye on reindeer and penguins


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Keeping a closer eye on reindeer and penguins

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It is estimated that Siberia is home to more than a million reindeer, but in recent decades, keeping track of the herds has been an impossible task.

Regular aerial monitoring of reindeer numbers is simply too expensive but now scientists are trying an alternative method.

Siberian Federal University scientists are fitting the animals with satellite transmission collars. Tracking them via satellite will provide information on migration routes, habitat, and wintering sites.

Alexander Salman, a Russian collar manufacturer, explained how it works in practice: “The device is fixed to an animal and turned on by removing the magnet attached to it. From that moment the device starts to identify its own coordinates with the aid of the navigation receiver and then it transmit the GPS coordinates.”

With illegal hunting on the rise, the collars could help authorities devise strategies for herd preservation.

On the other side of the world there is another animal tracking system at work, in this case for penguins in an Australian zoo. Researchers have attached tiny GPS devices and accelerometers to the birds to monitor where and how they search for food, in the hope of getting a glimpse into how they behave in the wild.

Macquarie University researcher Gemma Carroll explained that the technology tracks how the penguins swim: “We’re deploying these little accelerometer loggers on the captive penguins here at Taronga Zoo to give us an idea of the way that penguins move in three dimensional space in the water when we can’t see them.”

The researchers say little penguins are extremely vulnerable to habitat change, making the species an important indicator of the health of the oceans.

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