Radio-tracking drones

What makes tracking animals so difficult? We hear what you had to say

Does the following scenario sound familiar to you? 

After months of preparation, you’ve finally tagged and released your animals into the wild in the hope of learning more about this species. To monitor their movements, you painstakingly follow the radio-signals of each tagged animal every day. But as time passes and the animals continue to disperse, the faint “ping” of a radio-signal becomes harder and harder to detect. Frustrated, you conclude that you’ve lost your animals. So get more people out searching, you travel further and further afield and you even sometimes call in aircraft or helicopters to see if they can help shed some light on the animals gone AWOL.

This is a common story that we hear time and time again. Because regardless of whether they were wild-caught or bred in captivity, common or threatened – each tagged animal represents precious data that you had worked so hard just to even study. 

Last month, we sent out a survey to learn more about why missing animals is such a common problem. Here’s what we found…

What is the hardest thing about tracking animals?

Results from the survey showed that terrain, loss of animals and the time-consuming nature of animal-tracking were the most commonly experienced pain-points. 

Interestingly, results also indicated that the difficulties experienced extended beyond just tracking the animals themselves. Some cited that capturing and tagging animals was the most frustrating part of the job – especially if the animal had a tendency to evade traps! 

On the other hand, others wrote in saying that recapturing their animals to recover expensive tags/collars or change batteries was more difficult (and stressful!) as they were in a race against time to locate the animal before the battery died. 

A number of participants also mentioned that dealing with faulty equipment was a real issue that hindered their research. Examples given were tags falling off the animal, the tag being faulty and the tag’s battery dying prematurely.

Okay, but is there anything easy about tracking animals?

Participant A: “Nothing easy about it.”

Participant B: “Talking about it.”

Not many respondents had glowing reviews about how easy it was to track animals. However, in contrary to other responses, some mentioned that catching, tagging and releasing the animal was the easy part. A few lucky participants who have used satellite tags mentioned that interpreting satellite data made their job easy.

Were they able to recover a missing animal?

Most responses said that once an animal had gone missing, it was gone for good. Participants cited that the terrain and faulty equipment made it near impossible to even recover them.

However, in some lucky and unusual instances, animals have been recovered. One participant said that one of their animals had gone missing for more than 8 months before coming back into range of their study site.

Another story submitted by a respondent mentioned that their animal had been eaten by a python. Fortunately, the python was able to pass the collar and they were able to their equipment. 

Taking the pain out of animal-tracking

If you work with animals, you would know that no matter how much you prepare, you can never predict what’s going to happen next. But luckily with new and advancing technologies such as ours, it is becoming easier to study the movements of animals. 

If you’d like to learn about how Wildlife Drones can take your tracking to new heights, please get in contact with us today.

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