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World-first tracking of snakes using drone radio-telemetry
In a world first, drones have been successfully used to radio-track Eastern Brown Snakes in Australia
By: Wildlife Drones
Associate Professor Gavin Smith is the lead researcher of a project to track movements of the Eastern Brown Snake in Canberra, Australia. To date, he has had to use traditional manual tracking techniques from on the ground.
The hardest thing is the extensive amount of effort needed to find the snakes. This typically results in teams of people walking around holding hand-held antennas for hours in difficult terrain.
"The radio transmitters are implanted in the snake's bodies since there is no other way to attach their tags, which weakens the signals from the tags and difficult to detect when tracking on the ground," said Assoc. Prof. Smith.
"We can also only track one animal at a time. Given snakes can move in any direction and the tag signals are weak, it can easily take 12 hours on foot to find a single lost animal," he said.
The project, sponsored by the local Ginninderry Conservation Trust, aims to understand what happens to snakes that are captured in suburbia and relocated to nearby areas, which is crucial for guiding future translocations and understanding the habitat use of wild snakes for comparison purposes.
Wildlife Drones' technology revolutionises Gavin's work.
"By tracking from up high, the likelihood of detecting tag signals is increased due to improved line of sight with the tagged animals, rather than the signals being blocked by trees, rocks and buildings on the ground. Our technology can also track up to 40 uniquely tagged animals simultaneously, saving a huge amount of time and effort for the field team" said Dr Saunders.
For over a year, Asso. Prof. Smith and his team of volunteers have been working on the ground searching for his tagged snakes and struggling to keep up with them all. The effort required to track them all also limits the number of animals that can be studied, the amount of data that can be collected and the insights.
"I've been super impressed with what I've seen today with Wildlife Drones'technology. Being able to very quickly collect data over vast areas in real-time from the drone, which then leads us directly to where the snakes are, is really fantastic. It's been amazing for me to see how easily the drone can detect the tags from further away. It revolutionises my research", said Assoc. Prof. Smith.
About Wildlife Drones
Wildlife Drones is the global leader in drone radio-tracking technology and has created the world's first animal radio-tracking payload for drones.
Alexandra Kmita - Marketing Manager