Wildlife biologists are certainly getting inspired by our armed forces’ precise use of perimeter defence technologies. Technology is certainly a boon and allows us to become better protectors of mother earth’s fast disappearing treasures, including wildlife, at a cost and level of complexity that are far lower than ever before. Never mind, the same technology has enabled rich professional hunters to use sophisticated devices to track animals for hunting.
Scientists estimate that we are losing species at 1,000-times the natural rate. New technologies give us hope in improving conservation efforts by making it easier, faster and cheaper to monitor threatened species. But these technologies alone cannot conserve biodiversity. The challenge is to use them more wisely. Connecting different technologies and getting appropriate technologies into the hands of right people are just as important.
Monitoring of wildlife is the most important part of wildlife area management. The traditional methods of monitoring were dependant on human skills and capabilities. But the unbiased camera trap technology changed it completely. The first cameras to capture wildlife free from human presence were used in the late 1890s by George Shiras, who employed trip wires and a flash bulb to catch animals on film. The first purely scientific use of camera traps was in the 1920s, when Frank M Chapman surveyed the big species on Barro Colorado island in Panama using a trip-wire camera trap. But for decades, due to technological difficulties, mainstream researchers did not use this method. However, in 1990 the camera traps added an infrared trigger mechanism and the technique became easy for biologists. And now the camera traps are capable to send real time pictures to the monitoring centre.
The second most significant technique is radio telemetry. Telemetry is useful for monitoring species at the individual level. Targeted animal can be outfitted with instrumentation tags as collar, which include sensors that measure temperature, diving depth and duration, speed and location. Now this technique is GPS-enabled and researchers or conservation agencies can remotely observe relatively fine-scale movement or migratory patterns in free-ranging wild animals. To know about the exact migratory route of animals and birds is important, so we can secure their path for better conservation and protection.
Protection is a big challenge too. But there are a number of exciting efforts underway to control anti- forestry activities like sound sensor that detects the gun shot and drones that capture images from a distance to identify the extent of mining and logging.
Many people feel that we cannot save our forests though these militarisation techniques and that we have to involve local people in the conservation process. They are right, of course. But we cannot go wrong with combined efforts at all levels. If we want to stop the massive loss of species and ecosystems across the world, we need to be much smarter and engage as many minds as we can to develop new approaches to address the problems.
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