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At ZSL, we're developing and applying innovative technology to protect species around the world. 

Tracking and monitoring endangered species can be vital to protect them, but the technology is so expensive that acquiring GPS-based spatial and behavioural data can be unattainable.

Satellite tagging data for sea turtles, for example, is instrumental to unravel the movements of the nesting animals, improve their status and inform efforts to protect their fragile marine habitats. But it can cost $3000 to tag just one sea turtle. We've been developing solutions to change this. 

How is ZSL helping with sea turtle tagging?

In 2015, we initiated a project with the Príncipe Trust to understand how open source technologies and novel manufacturing could be used to develop a new, low-cost, tag for monitoring sea turtles.

Ongoing collaboration with the Arribada Initiative, and our engineers on-site in ZSL’s Conservation Technology Unit, led to the production of a GPS tag and enclosure using open designs and manufacturing methods. The tags cost 90 per cent less to produce than commercial turtle tags, bringing the unit cost down from $3,000 to $300. This offers the potential to scale-up monitoring efforts to unravel the movements of nesting and pelagic animals like turtles. If we can learn more about their behaviour, we can protect them. 

Video tags and GPS tag payloads - and the durability, waterproofing and attachment methods for enclosures - were tested on green sea turtles on Príncipe Island off the west coast of Africa and in Northern Cyprus from 2017-2019. Initial proof of concept designs included assisted GPS payloads which pre-load the receiver with satellite data to improve the time it takes to achieve a location during the brief interval when a turtle surfaces the water to breathe. 

What's next for low-cost tagging solutions?

Development funds and field trials were impacted by the global Covid-19 pandemic, however the Arribada Initiative continues to progress development and we will continue to collaborate on developing low-cost tagging solutions in the future.

Learn more about low-cost wildlife tracking

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Monitoring and technology

ZSL is at the forefront of applying technology to enhance the work of our conservationists and scientists and protect species around the world.