Hedgehogs With GPS Backpacks Released Tomorrow

7166669617_b4f2af31c0England: GPS Trackers To Save Hedgehogs

Even though they have spikes, hedgehogs are still cute! They resemble a porcupine with their coat of spines, and curl up into a spiky little ball whenever they feel threatened or scared. Certainly not the animal you would want to cuddle up with at the end of the day!

In England, the hedgehog population is declining. Efforts are underway to restore it, thanks to places like Shepreth Wildlife Park in Cambridgeshire. The park takes in sick or injured hedgehogs in order to care for them until they are healthy again, at which point they are returned to the wild. But will they survive once released?

Find Out With GPS Tracker Backpacks

One way to find out is to release a pack of hedgehogs with GPS tracker backpacks. 24 of the hedgehogs the wildlife park has rehabilitated will be released with GPS trackers worn just like a backpack, weighing a mere 1.8 oz. But how do you get the tracker onto the hedgehogs back? Don’t the spines complicate things?

Not after a “quick trim!” Since you can’t shave the area of spines (it is nothing like hair, after all), researchers will clip away a section of spines measuring an inch square. The GPS tracker backpack will then be glued in place, and all before the anesthesia wears off! In a few months, the device will fall off as the animal sheds its coat of spikes, which takes place naturally a few months from now.

The Study

Researchers will monitor the movements of the hedgehogs 24 hours each day via computer. They want to see how long the rehabilitated animal survives after being released, if it reproduces, and if rehabilitating the animals is making any difference at all in terms of boosting the population.

They’ll use the data they collect to determine the best spots to release rehabilitated hedgehogs in the future, and the best way to go about releasing them. They’re letting them go in numerous places in the area as a test: Shepreth on the border of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, West Stow and Beck Row in Suffolk, and Ely in Cambridgeshire.

They also want to take a look at how the animal behaves when it is released back into the wild. Is there a specific weight the animal should be when it is released for hibernation purposes? Are the animals even going into hibernation as they should?

Preparations Already Underway

To get them ready for the big day (which is actually slated for tomorrow), researchers have set up special pre-release pens outdoors which prepare the animals for constant outdoor living.

Another important precaution researchers have taken: they monitored the hedgehogs for two weeks, 24 hours a day, with the GPS trackers on their backs to see how they reacted to the devices. You don’t want to send a hedgehog on its way with a GPS tracker that ends up driving it nuts, and causes it to die prematurely!

If an animal is detected to be stationary for a certain period of time, a researcher will be on the job, tracking it down to ensure it hasn’t died. Each animal has its own volunteer researcher keeping an eye on its movements to ensure swift response.

Do you have something important you’d like to track? Contact us, we’d love to help!

 

Photo by www.thegoodlifefrance.com via Flickr Creative Commons

A Drone Contest to End Poaching

drone_wildlife_contestWatch out, poachers. Things are about to get dangerous for you! Kashmir Robotics is offering up a big prize to the next person to design a drone tasked with flying above South Africa’s ‘Kruger National Park.’ Why?

To keep an eye out for poachers. What prize are they offering? Well, how about a 10-day excursion at the park along with $25,000? Sound good?

Protecting Wildlife

The drones will patrol the skies above the park in order to keep an eye on all species, some endangered, that wander the park each day. These animals are susceptible to poachers, who often conduct illegal in remote areas that are hard for park rangers to access. Without the drones, it is almost impossible to safeguard the extremely rare white rhino and other endangered species.

Yes, there are other ways park officials have kept an eye on the creatures and captured poachers at the same time, but the problem hasn’t gone away entirely.

Some researchers have implanted GPS tracker chips in the horns of the rhinos, which is what the poachers are after. They can sell for up to $300,000 in some locations. Others rely on game cameras, set up in places the animals are known to roam. GPS trackers have been placed on elephants, who are hunted for their ivory tusks too. GPS trackers help, but drones bring the kind of eye-in-the-sky monitoring that’s needed.

Drones Are The Answer

Officials would like to look into the use of drones to put an end to poaching. Drones can reach places rangers just can’t, and they keep rangers safe from poachers with sharp weapons. The drones fly above ground, transmitting pictures to the rangers who are somewhere safe, watching the footage as it is being captured.

The only problem with using drones is the cost. These drones can cost more than $4 million per device! Yikes!

The Contest

The true goal of the drone designing contest is to create a drone that is affordable.

Here are the rules:

  1. Each team can be no more than five people in size. It doesn’t matter who you are – even high school students can enter. A team can also employ the assistance of up to two academic or professional advisors.
  2. The drone, complete with GPS tracker technology, and the associated software can only cost up to $3,000.

Once successful, wildlife organizations charged with protecting endangered species will have an extremely powerful tool in their arsenal to combat poaching. The hope is to end this kind of brutal killing altogether.

Do you have what it takes to create the next GPS tracker guided drone? Gather your team and get to work! The deadline for entry is December 1, 2013. The grand prize will be awarded on October 4, 2014.

GPS is Changing the Game For Kenya’s Wildlife

white_rhinos_gpsWe’ve talked about a variety of wildlife being monitored with GPS trackers. Whether it’s the urban fox population in Canada, wolves in California, or moose in Maine, GPS trackers are the best way to get accurate data about the habits of the animals. But in some cases, it just isn’t enough.

What about big game like the wildlife found in Kenya? The elephants and rhinos there are at a high risk of poaching. Each day in Africa, a total of 96 elephants are killed, and a rhino becomes a victim every 11 hours! Park rangers try their best to keep it from happening, but even the rangers are at risk: poachers have been known to kill rangers in order to avoid prosecution. In the past three years, poachers have killed 13 rangers of the Kenya Wildlife Service.

It’s All About The Ivory

Referred to as “white gold” in China, ivory is the reason poachers seek out these endangered creatures. The rhinos are slaughtered for their horns, which sell on the black market for about $30,000 a pound according to the African Wildlife Foundation. Have a horn from a white rhino? Those sell for as much as $390,000!

Even Hillary and Chelsea Clinton are standing behind Kenya with an initiative to put an end to illegal ivory once and for all, joining forces with the Wildlife Conservation Society in an $80 million dollar campaign.

The Problem

Both the U.S. and African governments possess seized ivory, but neither have plans to sell it. In fact, the U.S. planned on destroying the ivory they possess, all six tons of it, at the beginning of this month. However, the government shutdown postponed it until November 14. Kenya burns their seized ivory. Destroying and burning the ivory is supposed to be sending a message to poachers that it is worthless.

However, people in China find both the ivory and rhino horns to be extremely valuable. With the economy there thriving, more people have money to buy these illegal items. In Vietnam, there is a belief that rhino horns actually cure cancer. The issue lies in the fact that as the horns and ivory become more rare, the price will skyrocket, making it even more tempting for poachers.

Tools To Combat Poachers

So how are Kenyan conservationists fighting back? One tool in a ranger’s arsenal is a dog. Just as dogs in airports sniff baggage for drugs and weapons, Kenya Wildlife Services K-9 unit uses the dogs to seek out illegal ivory and rhino horns, each with their own distinct scent that the dog’s sensitive sense of smell can pick up on. The addition of the dogs to the team has helped them in their war on poachers, and a total of 39 people have been arrested of suspected poaching.

Other tools of the trade include high-tech items like night-vision goggles, helicopters, and GPS trackers. Although these tools can often catch the poachers in the act, it’s the poachers they aren’t catching that the dogs can. In the near future, Kenya will be implanting microchips with GPS tracking technology in the horns of every white rhino. Hopefully, this will help put an end to senseless rhino poaching.

 

Photo Courtesy of Abi Skipp Through Flickr Creative Commons

GPS Tracks An Unlikely Hollywood Star

p-22_mountain_lionGPS Tracks Unlikely Hollywood Star

Hollywood: many head here for the glamour, glitz, fame and fortune. When I say “many,” I mean “people.” However, there is one unlikely character who’s risen to a fame all his own. He’s called P-22, and he’s a mountain lion living in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. How close is he? From his home, the Capitol Records building in Hollywood is visible.

Scientists are tracking P-22 with a GPS tracker, and a National Geographic photographer is incorporating the use of a trail camera in order to learn about this fascinating creature and observe its movements throughout the area. He is a nocturnal animal, hunting in the woods close by at night, and sleeping during the day. As far as scientists know, this 4-year-old mountain lion is the first to get this close to civilization in Southern California.

He’s Going To Be A Star!

This cat will be a star of his own soon, as the photographer from National Geographic is hard at work capturing images thanks to the motion-activated trail camera. One of the images shows just how close this creature lives in relation to the city: the famed Hollywood sign can be seen in the shot!

Being the only mountain lion known to live in Griffith Park, scientists say he has it made in the shade. With no other lions around, he has his pick of prey. They know this because of a project in 2012, where they affixed GPS tracking collars to over 20 cougars located in the Santa Monica Mountains. They’ve been tracking P-22 since March of 2012.

So Far, So Good

P-22 hasn’t been causing any problems with people in the area, noting that hikers aren’t reporting sightings. This shows that the mountain lion is behaving naturally: “finding his natural prey and staying elusive.” Scientists believe the lion moved to the park from the Western Santa Monica Mountains right before being collared in February 2012.

Collaring The Lion

The researchers knew it was important to employ the use of a GPS tracker to keep an eye on the mountain lion, and set some traps with cameras. One March morning, scientists received a text alert – the lion had been captured in the trap. After sedating the large cat, a GPS collar was affixed to the lion’s neck. The collar sends GPS location data at regular intervals throughout the day, which is stored in a database researchers can view on a website.

P-22’s Future

Besides becoming the subject of a National Geographic Magazine centerfold this December, researchers are learning much more about this cat than ever imagined, all thanks to GPS software. Scientists know that P-22 can’t live in the park forever — his age tells researchers that soon he’ll want to mate, which will take him deeper into the wild.

For now, scientists will learn all they can about this creature’s behaviors (and ensure he remains far away from the city!). We don’t advise the capturing and collaring of a lion, but we do have lots of GPS trackers that will help you track your pet – take a look!

 

Photo Courtesy of contemplicity via Flickr Creative Commons

Tracking Trees With GPS – Yes, Trees!

gps_tracking_treesSo, if trees don’t actually move, how are biologists tracking trees with GPS? It all began with the hemlock tree – more specifically, Cumberland Plateau hemlock trees.

These trees are under close watch by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation scientists. Why? To try and protect the hemlocks from the ‘hemlock woolly adelgid’ – an aphid introduced to the Cumberland Plateau area in 1951.

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (a microscopic bug) originated in Asia, and eventually made its way to the east coast of the United States, creeping in from the Appalachian and Great Smokey Mountains. How can something so small make such a big impact on the forest? Such a big impact that scientists have started to track trees with GPS trackers?

These bugs feed off of the trees thanks to what is called a ‘stylet,’ something like a stinger, which they stick right into the branches of evergreen trees. These stingers allow the bugs to dine on the delicious sap contained within these trees. Scientists believe that the saliva from the insects is injected into the trees while the bugs feed. This, in turn, leads to the destruction of the trees. It takes 3 to 7 years after the aphids first begin feeding for the trees to show visible signs of deterioration.

No other creature feeds on the aphids, which means that these bugs can simply continue feeding and multiplying quickly. These bugs move from tree to tree on the backs of bids, too! Scientists are at a loss, since it is not possible to really diminish the population of aphids. Currently, scientists are charged with the responsibility of saving the evergreen trees – and, consequently, the state’s forests.

GPS To The Rescue

Where do GPS trackers come into play? Using a handheld GPS tracker, scientists are moving from evergreen to evergreen mapping the specific location of each tree. Once a tree has been mapped, that tree is marked with paint. In addition, the paint marks signify that scientists have injected a specific type of pesticide into each marked tree.

The pesticide, called Imidacloprid, enters a tree’s circulatory system, which kills off any bugs that attempt to feast on the trees. This is a really big and time consuming job that has been made a lot simpler with the help of GPS software.

Keeping Biodiversity Intact

This part of the Cumberland Plateau is home to 1,100 species of plants, what one scientist says is more than “many small European countries.” Trees are so important to this area because of wildlife diversity. Birds, snails, and many different varieties of inverebrates feed on the fallen leaves of dogwood trees, which contain calcium critical to tree survival.

If the aphids or any other insect would threaten the dogwood trees, an important food source would disappear from the landscape, causing a deadly ripple effect in the area’s ecosystem.

So you see, even trees can benefit from the GPS tracking device. What can GPS tracking do for you? While you’re here, don’t forget to take a look at our selection of GPS trackers too!

 

Photo By Jonny Goldstein Via Flickr Creative Commons

Disappearing Reefs: A Hard Problem to Solve

coral_reef_gpsAccording to the World Resources Institute’s study ‘Reefs at Risk Revisited,’ 75% of coral reefs located in the world’s seas are threatened by a host of different factors including overfishing, climate change, and pollution.

Scientists predict that this number will climb as high as 95% by 2030. By 2050, that number should reach almost 100%. Why is this happening?

When ocean water becomes warmer due to climate change, acidity levels rise. This, in turn, creates conditions that are not ideal for any reef ecosystem.

The Bigger Picture

Coral reefs are estimated to provide tourism dollars to many different parts of the world. It is estimated that around $9.6 billion dollars per year are spent on reef tourism. Islands like Cozumel, in Mexico, depend entirely on tourist dollars brought by an attraction to deep sea reef diving. Imagine what would happen to an economy like Cozumel’s were reefs to disappear.

Additionally, fisheries depend on the reef ecosystem in order to generate revenue – to the tune of $5.7 billion per year (according to the ‘National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’). But, it’s not just about the money. There’s more to this problem.

Reefs Provide Protection

Did you know reefs can be protective? During Hurricane Sandy, for example, the use of oyster reefs was discussed in order to protect New York from damage. Reefs around the world can also be used in this manner. What can be done?

One suggestion is to bring Google Street View to the ocean. This would provide the rest of the world a way to look “into” the reef issue. Google’s location and viewing data can also be used and collected by researchers – a field of study that has made major technological progressions.

Then And Now

When reefs were studied in the past, scientists used the old-school ruler, chain, and still camera to capture surroundings and record both size and location data.

The old research scenario would look something like this: scientists would use the ruler for scale, take a picture, head to the next part of the reef, take another picture, and so on and so forth. The chain would be used to show the contours of the reef. As you can see, this is a long, drawn out process that can take ages to complete!

Enter the GPS tracker. Scientists can now use a high-definition camera equipped with a GPS tracker to record GPS location data and topographical information. One team of scientists working near the Great Barrier Reef is using GPS tracking software and equipment in conjunction with a high-definition camera to snap images and record data – kind of like the location data setting on your smartphone.

Interpreting The Data

To help decipher the 200,000 images taken at the Great Barrier Reef and other locations in the Caribbean, the ‘Scripps Institution of Oceanography’ is helping researchers identify the types of coral that exist in each image. How? Facial recognition software, of course.

The process of deciphering the types of reef caught on film used to take almost 10 years when analyzed by human eyes. The new GPS software allows scientists to get the job done in mere hours – that’s a huge difference!

Reefs may go unnoticed for the most part (and some of us will never see them!), but they are a vital part of our world. Thankfully, GPS tracking devices can help maintain the delicate balance of our reef system, so that the planet can continue to thrive.

 

Photo Credit: USFWS Via Fickr Creative Commons

The Mystery of the Moose

gps_tracking_mooseHave you ever seen a moose in the wild? If you have, consider yourself lucky! It’s getting harder and harder to catch a glimpse of a moose. Scientists say that moose populations are dwindling all over the U.S. Why? Nobody really knows.

Many things might have lead to a decline in the moose population including:

  • Over hunting
  • Climate change
  • Deforestation
  • Disease

What’s the number one culprit? Scientists are now point to climate change as the reason why moose aren’t as abundant as they once were. But, this is just a guess.

How Bad Is It?

The Christian Science Monitor reports on some sad stats in a recent article titled ‘Moose Die-Off Is Massive, and a Mystery to Scientists.’

Take a look at these numbers:

  • Montana: 40% decline since 1995
  • Minnesota: 50% drop since 2010
  • Wyoming: 919 moose remain in this state!
  • New Hampshire: 4,600 out of 7,000 moose are left!

What can climate change do to moose? A team of scientists in New Hampshire are pointing to a tick infestation problem. When the weather heats up, ticks feast. One single moose can have up to 150,000 ticks at one time!. Normally, other moose pick out ticks, but this can’t happen if other moose don’t exist.

But, again, this is just speculation. Researchers want to know for sure what’s killing moose, and that’s where the GPS tracker comes into play.

From Hunting To Tracking

Researchers in Minnesota will track moose using GPS tracking collars. These GPS trackers will help the scientists gather important habit data. The hope is that the GPS location data can help determine what’s killing moose, so that moose populations can be restored.

Why do researchers care? What do moose offer our world? As it turns out, a lot! Due to their sheer size and weight, moose traverse forests making way for other animals. When moose no longer exist, many other animals will suffer as a result. A cleared forest space means lots of great nesting grounds for other creatures, and that would all disappear if moose become extinct. Moose are also a nice protein snack for coyotes and bears – removing this option from the food chain may mean more urban attacks.

Where There’s GPS, There’s Hope

The GPS tracker might be the key to unlocking the mystery of the moose. If you’ve ever seen a moose in the wild, you know just how majestic these animals can be – it would be a shame to see them all disappear!

Scientists hope that they can save the moose before they disappear from the wild altogether, allowing people to enjoy watching this creature from afar for decades to come. Do you have an animal that you want to track? We can help with that (just don’t try to capture a moose!). Contact us for details.

Have you ever seen a moose? We want to know!

 

Photo By tuchodi via Flickr Creative Commons

Wild Bears in CT Now Have Fancy New GPS Collars!

wild_bears_gps_trackingIt’s not an easy feat, but the CT state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection biologists did it anyway: fitting roughly 25 bears with GPS tracking collars during the past three years! Biologists wanted to  find out where these bears  – and we know you do too!

Biologists have already learned a few interesting things too. For example:

  • Bears look for skunk cabbage in wetland areas after hibernating.
  • Acorns and other nuts are what bears eat during the fall months.

Want to know more? So do biologists, and that’s exactly what GPS trackers are assisting with.

‘Airport Bear’

Let’s look at one of the current bears sporting a GPS tracking collar, dubbed ‘Airport Bear’  (this bear resides near ‘Bradley International Airport’ in Windsor Locks).

Biologists watched Airport Bear (and of course, I mean watched her GPS location!) make her way from her home on October 18, 2011 to Becket, Massachusetts (50 miles away) and back again on December 1st of that same year to begin hibernation.

Why?

When the researchers looked into it, they found that acorns were scarce in the bear’s home area, and lo and behold, plentiful in Becket! As it turns out, bears will travel a long way for the right acorn!

Showing Where Bears Roam

The GPS trackers are showing researchers where a bear’s territory is with amazing accuracy thanks to the GPS tracking collars reporting every bear’s location data 17 to 18 times each day. Researchers gather this data, compile numerous months-worth of data, and plot that data on a  map.

The trackers with GPS have also taught the biologists another important lesson: even if you move bears to another location in order to protect the public, they will try to find their way home again.

This happened with Airport Bear — she got too close for comfort, and biologists relocated her to a location two towns away. However, she made it back home in a mere six hours. So much for that idea!

Don’t Feed The Bears

Although it isn’t illegal to do so, it is advised residents do not feed wild bears. Biologists say that this leads to the bears becoming too comfortable with humans, which then results in a greater risk of being hit by a car and changing a bear’s home territory. Despite this advice, people still do it, as the GPS collars have indicated.

Researchers say they’ve put two and two together when they have observed numerous bears appearing at the same location, something they’ve seen in multiple areas. They speak to the residents about this behavior in efforts to educate them as to why this practice is a bad idea for the bears’ safety and well being.

Bear Numbers On The Rise

Biologists say that the bear population is rising, causing them to spread across the state into more urban areas by way of the suburbs – this fact makes tracking bears crucial. These GPS tracking collars are the perfect way to learn about the bear’s habits and movements.

GPS tracking devices are for more than just wildlife! Contact us if there’s anything you might like to track with a GPS tracker (just stay away from those bears)!

 

Photo Courtesy of FHGitarre Via Flickr Creative Commons

Have You See This Fox Collar?

pei_red_foxWhen researchers plan to track wild animals using GPS trackers, the plan is usually centered on how the animal will be captured, tracked, and then studied.

But, sometimes even the best plans are sent off course when unforeseen things happen. This is the case with a project called ‘P.E.I Urban Fox.’ This project (as you might have guessed from the name!) began in 2012, and was implemented in order to track red foxes in the P.E.I area.

The first red fox was tagged with a GPS tracking collar about one month ago. All was going according to plan until it came time for the collar to fall off of that first tracked fox. The collar did break as planned, but researchers haven’t been able to find it. This means that all the GPS data recorded and stored in the tracking collar will be lost if the collar cannot be located.

A Short Timeline

Not only is the collar worth around $2100, but it also contain information that will no longer be valid one month from now. Due to highly technical equipment and complications, the exact location of the collar cannot be found. This puts researchers in a bad position – and has a team of people combing possible areas for a lost fox collar!

If the snow starts to fall and temperatures start to drop, the GPS tracking data gathered inside of the collar will likely be destroyed. This would, of course, set the whole project back a few months – in addition to resulting in a waste of valuable research dollars.

Have You See It?

Right now, the UPEI research team believes that the collar could be hidden in someone’s backyard, but no collar has been found yet. The fox that was wearing the collar was last seen in Stratford on Marion Drive, and the research team is asking anyone that may live in the Stratford area to search backyards and wooden areas for a possible collar that looks high-tech.

As the temperatures start to drop, time is running out! The GPS tracking collars that are being used to track red foxes are of the specialized sort, but we have a few animal tracking options here are Alpha GPS Tracking too. If you want to track your pets (even your pet fox!), check out our various options.

And, just a reminder: red foxes running through urban backyards might be cute, but researchers warn that these foxes are still wild animals. In short: don’t try and capture a fox or pet one!