Wildlife Scientists Count Animals From Space
Scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), based at the Bronx Zoo, have been counting their zoo animals from outer space.
Using specialized cameras aboard an orbiting satellite 280 miles up, a WCS scientific team surveyed some of the zoo’s animal collection on November 10 to see if satellites can help count wildlife populations in remote locations throughout the world.
The scientists found that the satellite view allows for an accurate count without disturbing the animals by human intrusion.
The detail of the images taken from so far away is impressive. “We’re counting individual gazelles in the zoo’s African Plains exhibit from a satellite 280 miles up,” said Dr. Scott Bergen. “That’s like standing on top of the Empire State Building and spotting a deer in Maine.”
The society plans to use similar satellite techniques to count elephants and giraffes in Tanzania, flamingos in South America, and elk, bison and antelope in Wyoming.
Dr. Eric Sanderson, a WCS landscape ecologist who is managing the study said, “Imagine being able to monitor a herd of elephants in the Serengeti, or a flock of endangered flamingos in Bolivia, from a lab in New York. This technology may allow us to do just that.”
“This experiment is another powerful example of how WCS can use its world-class zoos in New York City to help save wildlife living half a world away,” said Richard Lattis, general director of WCS’s zoos and aquarium.
WCS, the Bronx Zoo’s parent organization, currently operates more that 350 field conservation projects in 54 countries around the world.
The satellite, called Quickbird, is owned by DigitalGlobe, a private company. The project was funded in part by a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Provided by the Environmental News Service.