Unlocking the mysteries of animal migration through precise, near real-time tracking can solve major conservation challenges and transform wildlife science worldwide.
For the past year, scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have been working with aviation and aerospace leaders, led by Airbus to launch the “Partners in the Sky” program using aviation and aerospace technology to create a first-of-its-kind global animal-tracking system.
Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas, learned of the technical challenges facing scientists tracking animals and knew industry could provide solutions”.
Aviation and aerospace companies deploy similar technologies and programs every da–whether in satellite navigation, communication and surveillance or in high-fidelity tracking,” said McArtor. “No industry is better positioned to help the public sector transform wildlife conservation and make a difference in the health of our planet”.
Movement of animals is essential to maintaining ecosystems and ultimately a healthy planet. Migrations are common among more than 6,000 species and occur almost everywhere in the world, often spanning thousands of miles.
More than 90 percent of the globe’s wildlife is too small to track. For larger species like elephants, conservation-tracking technologies are prohibitively expensive, have high failure rates and are limited in range and resolution.
SCBI scientists are leaders in studying animal movement and its consequences for species, communities and ecosystems. A comprehensive tracking program that SCBI can share across the conservation community has enormous potential.
Integrating that information with key environmental and satellite data from other sources, potentially through one platform, will help scientists pinpoint what drives animal movement.
The worldwide conservation community could track animals over their lifetime, discover unknown migration routes, understand the spread of infectious disease, reduce human-animal conflicts, combat poaching, pinpoint the root causes of migratory bird population declines and save species from extinction.
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