Satellites follow wild animal migrations: why?

Lack of food, epidemics … what exactly threatens certain wildlife species? To better understand and protect them, scientists are increasingly relying on satellites.

Monitoring weather disturbances, providing GPS, providing information to the army … satellites provide us with a wealth of strategic services on a daily basis. However, some of their professions are more exciting: some of them work, for example, observing wild animals.

On the occasion of the World Conservation Congress, in early September 2021, the CLS subsidiary of the National Center for Space Studies released a report highlighting how it works and, above all, the reasons why satellites observe terrestrial fauna.

More than 200,000 animals are tracked

Since the 1980s, CLS has tracked more than 200,000 wildlife. The most common purpose of these missions is to identify what may threaten these species in order to preserve them. In 20 years, for example, the number of wild reindeer roaming the tundra in Yakutia has dropped by 60%, without scientists knowing exactly why. Are these animals decimated by epidemics? Are climate change changing the availability of their food resources? To clarify this, the researchers equipped 200 reindeer with satellite collars equipped with an AI capable of analyzing their behavior (asleep, on the go, feeding, sick, etc.).

This information should help identify what threatens wild reindeer in order to take appropriate protection measures. Similar projects on other large mammals (wild horses, bison, etc.) are being rolled out. The spatial approach is “necessary given the size of the territories to be monitored The CLS teams argue.

Identify what threatens animal species

CLS was also able to gather unprecedented information on young sea turtles. Until then, researchers had little information about the decades that passed between their birth and their return to spawning beaches. Microsatellite firers now make it possible to follow their routes more precisely with the aim of taking the most appropriate protection measures for this species.

Satellites follow wild animal migrations: why?

Tracking sea turtles helps protect them better

Source: CLS

CLS is not only interested in land and sea animals: it will also closely monitor birds, which make up 14% of the species threatened with extinction. These animals are truly threatened by intensive agriculture, deforestation, hunting and global warming. ” The great migrations of people are strongly influenced by the constructions and developments that man has made in the areas. Traction, birthplace, rest, reproduction, all are threatened or disturbed “, Emphasizes the publication of CLS.


Source: patrickkavanagh / CC / Flickr

The teams responsible for this project plan to cross-reference the location information for birds equipped with beacons with environmental data (vegetation, forest cover, water point) and data related to human activities (presence of urban areas, agricultural areas, etc.). This information should help take the most relevant protection measures, but also refine our knowledge of biodiversity. ” It took 10 years to reconstruct a migration route, 10 minutes query is enough today to identify a migration route The CLS teams are delighted.

The subsidiary of the National Center for Space Studies specifies that from 2023 it will be able to operate a new satellite constellation capable of connecting a much larger number of beacons. This constellation, called Kinéis, was to make it possible to monitor hundreds of thousands of animals every month, compared to 8,000 every month today.

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