Join our community & help make Camera Satellite Tags a reality
For as long as anyone can remember the persecution of Birds of Prey (BoP) in the UK has been ongoing and relentless, even though it has been illegal to intentionally kill or injure them since The Protection of Birds Act 1954 came into being and which is now an Act within the broader legislative Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
Many phrases can be cited, ‘enough is enough’ is one often heard, along with ‘when will satellite tags be fitted with cameras’. In fact, such is the disgust at how often the illegal killing of BoP occurs, hearing these phrases almost desensitises the listener to such an extent, that you would be forgiven for thinking that illegal persecution has become the norm.
Much work has been done since starting the project in 2018 to the stage it is at now, getting ready to start a Proof of Concept (POC) study (better known as a feasibility study – FS) There are many challenges that the FS will have to address, not least overall weight and battery life. Technology is constantly advancing, in July ’21 a press release from The University of Washington announced that a tiny wireless steerable camera had been developed that could be fitted onto a beetle, able to stream video or panoramic shots. See press release ( here ) This project will encounter many of the same challenges faced by the UoW researchers.
PROJECT CamTag® is a long term project, there is no instant fix solution, it is expected the project will go well into 2022 and beyond. A sad reality is, that while the project takes its course, many more of our magnificent raptors are likely to be illegally killed. 3ET is not trying to invent a tag that will replace current tags, those being used now are giving excellent data. The project aim in Stage 1, is to explore the feasibility of being able to make a fully functional camera satellite tag, specifically for the purpose of capturing images of the people responsible for shooting Birds of Prey. This exciting new technology could run alongside and in conjunction with existing satellite tags, offering a different service, that of image capture which at present is not available. To achieve this, many factors have to be taken into consideration, to try and fit all the technology required neatly into a 10g+ miniature backpack. Currently in existence are several types of Satellite Tag, fitted to BoP with a material harness deigned to drop off with wear, made by different manufacturers, most giving excellent data. The best are rated at approximately 94% reliable, you can read RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations Ian Thomson’s article challenging misinformation about satellite tags (see here) Some were used that knowingly had functionality issues, which understandably gave serious cause for concern. Raptor Persecution UK sheds light on this (see here and an update here)
As early as this year, a new constellation of at least 20 dedicated nano-satellites, will be right above our heads, in space. They will be able to transmit data more frequently, more quickly and more accurately and be more affordable to the user than at present. 3ET believes that this advancement will help detect a ‘downed’ bird much more quickly, with better precision pin-pointing of co-ordinates.
Unfortunately from the data available, the reality is that there is a high probability that just a few birds fitted with camera tags, stand a high chance of being illegally killed, which in turn would give a high chance of capturing an image of the culprit. And although public knowledge has been vastly increased in recent years and the shooting industry is getting a little hot under the collar with the spotlight continuously on them, the problem of our Raptors disappearing and being illegally killed is not going away any time soon. If we are to have any hope of saving our Hen Harriers and other Raptors we need to get on with this project NOW.
With the public’s help, the project’s end goal is to manufacture a camera tag that can be made and given to an appointed NGO who will then take over the governance. Please support PROJECT CamTag by donating whatever you can afford.
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