Technology has always been a valuable tool in studying wildlife. It has allowed us to go everywhere, from deep into the ocean to the top of mountains. We are in an age where we live alongside both animals and technology, so it isn’t a far stretch to think we would use tech to get to know the other sentient beings on the planet. This article showcases some ways we are using contemporary technology to further our understanding of the animals on the planet we call home.
4. Monitoring and Tracking
Monitoring and tracking animals have always been at the forefront of animal studies. If you do not know where they are going, how do you know what they are doing? There have been many ways to do this over the years, but currently, it is easier and more convenient than it has ever been.
One of the premier ways to do this is remote sensing via satellite. Scientists will use satellites to track animals on migration patterns, such as whales or birds, and study where and when these animals go, to figure out why.
Tracking animals can also be done by collars or attached animal sensors. These help monitor where certain populations are at risk or where a habitat is in danger. In the past, they have been large and cumbersome, but through updated technology, the sensors attached to these animals have become vastly more comfortable.
These collars usually contain a GPS indicator so scientists can track animals over a large distance which was much harder to do in the past. If the animals aren’t traveling very far, camera traps can be set up that can take visuals of the animals to give humans a sense of what daily life is like for them.
It is easy to see that tracking and monitoring animals has improved vastly.
3. Habitat Protection
To protect an animal's habitat, similar tactics are used in the tracking of animals, such as remote sensing and camera traps, as well as other technologies like drones and GPS monitors.
The camera traps can be vital for habitat protection for several reasons. First, they can give an actual picture of a habitat and whether it is being destroyed legally, illegally, or naturally. Second, it can identify endangered species; if there is a habitat that houses many endangered species, wildlife foundations will likely push to save that area.
Drones are a great piece of technology that gives a bigger picture of the ecosystem in question. If you fly high enough, you can see where human urbanization ends, and the area gets wild again. You can compare those pictures to the same ones taken in the same place at different times to see how affected the site is.
GPS tags are also a neat tool to figure out where animals are migrating to and from, as well as put a lock on breeding areas; if you know where the animals are going to breed, it takes the guesswork out of figuring out what habitats need protecting.
2. Education and Outreach
Education and outreach are a vital part of wildlife conservation, and being able to reach a large number of people with relatively little work is extremely useful.
One of the most recognizable ways technology has affected our interaction with animals is how we interact via social media. It has never been easier to get a campaign or petition started in the conservation society.
It is a great tool for education as well. You do not have to look far past your phone to find information on endangered animals or conservation groups.
A fascinating piece of technology that was first embraced by the video game community is live streaming. Organizations across the globe have put up live streaming of various animals in all sorts of settings. This also is a huge tool in bringing awareness and educating people.
Last is the internet itself. It helps to bring the natural world into classrooms. Foundations like the World Wildlife Foundation have partnered with many other nonprofits to create educational tools for students, not only to teach them about nature but to inspire them as well.
1. Direct Interaction
Technology is used in all sorts of ways behind the scenes to learn more about animals, but how is it being used directly?
Well, one way is its profound effect on poachers. Generally, when someone is being watched, they are hesitant to commit a crime. When poaching animals, stealth is a key factor in the game, and all gets thrown out the window by remote monitors.
Tech, such as camera traps placed in areas where poachers are well known, helps identify criminals and acts as a deterrent. Putting these in areas with endangered animals and using the recording as evidence is a surefire way to tell poachers, "Do not hunt here."
There is one piece of technology that stands above all the others in terms of how we interact with animals, and that is the 3D printer.
Vets and animal surgeons alike are using 3D printers to print prosthetics for pets specifically made for the individual animal. No more one size fits all; these animals are getting fake limbs, among other things, that include their exact measurements.
Between monitoring, conservation, and the ability to get pets walking comfortably again, I do not think it is out of line to say technology is changing how we interact with animals.