An image of two dogs and a bison wearing harnesses with the energy harvesting system. Text next to the animals says Dog 1 (Exp. 1), Dog 2 (Exp. 2), Dog 2 (Exp. 3), and Wisent (Exp. 4)

Kinefox Tracks Wildlife For A Lifetime

Radio trackers have become an important part of studying the movements of wildlife, but keeping one running for the life of an animal has been challenging. Researchers have now developed a way to let wildlife recharge trackers via their movements.

With trackers limited to less than 5% of an animal’s total mass to prevent limitations to the their movement, it can be especially difficult to fit trackers with an appropriately-sized battery pack to last a lifetime. Some trackers have been fitted with solar cells, but besides issues with robustness, many animals are nocturnal or live in dimly-lit spaces making this solution less than ideal. Previous experiments with kinetically-charged trackers were quite bulky.

The Kinefox wildlife tracking system uses an 18 g, Kinetron MSG32 kinetic energy harvesting mechanism to power the GPS and accelerometer. Similar to the mechanical systems found in automatic winding watches, this energy harvester uses a pendulum glued to a ferromagnetic ring which generates power as it moves around a copper coil. Power is stored in a Li-ion capacitor rated for 20,000 charge/discharge cycles to ensure better longevity than would be afforded by a Li-ion battery. Data is transmitted via Sigfox to a cloud-based database for easy access.

If you want to build one to track your own pets, the files and BOM are available on GitHub. We’ve featured other animal trackers before for cats and dogs which are probably also applicable to bison.

Rhisotope: Addressing Poaching By Making Rhinoceros Horns Radioactive

There is no question that poaching has become an existential threat to the five species of rhinoceros alive today. Even the wildlife reserves where most rhinos live struggle to provide protection from the wanton and cruel poaching of the world’s last remaining rhinos.

Poachers are generally looking to sell the horns which consist of pure keratin, the same material that makes up our fingernails and hair. Rhino horns have seen a big rise in demand the past decades, with a black market in Vietnam representing the biggest buyers, primarily for use in fever and other medicines, as well as for processing into carved trinkets. This has contributed to a further rhino population collapse. Statistics from 2017 show about 18,000 white rhinos and fewer than 5,500 black rhinos remaining. Recently, the northern white rhino population in Africa went effectively extinct with the death of the last known male individual.

Clearly, if we wish to prevent extinction, we need to deal with poaching. The latest suggestion here is part of the Rhisotope project. This would make rhino horns radioactive, but how exactly would doing so prevent poaching? Let’s take a look.

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