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In a first, BNHS to use cellular tech for studying bird migration

The birds will be tagged with GSM-based (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPS-based (Global Positioning System) tracking devices that will map details such as altitude, location, trajectory and speed.

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai | Published: February 10, 2020 2:50:30 am
cellular tech for bird migration, Bombay Natural History Society, mumbai news, maharashtra news, indian express news According to sources in the BNHS, this is the first time such a study is being commissioned in India, and is likely to be launched before March.

A first-of-its-kind study by the cellular tech for bird migration, Bombay Natural History Society, mumbai news, maharashtra news, indian express news (BNHS) will use cellular technology to study migratory patterns of flamingos. As part of the study, 10 migratory birds — six flamingos, two curlews and ibises — found in wetlands between November and March, will be fitted with cellular and satellite devices to track their movement.

According to sources in the BNHS, this is the first time such a study is being commissioned in India, and is likely to be launched before March.

Rahul Khot, assistant director of BNHS, who leads the flamingo studies, said, “Satellite tracking will help in devising better conservation methods and understanding the movement of birds through signals that point out their habitat use, flight pattern and distance. At present, we only have one part of their whole journey, which is their destination.”

The birds will be tagged with GSM-based (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPS-based (Global Positioning System) tracking devices that will map details such as altitude, location, trajectory and speed.

While GSM tags will be used in areas where cellular network is available, GPS tags will be used for satellite mapping in other areas. According to the BNHS, the tracking devices will help researchers in better data collection of breeding spots, changes in route pattern over the years, stopovers and final destination.

The BNHS has ringed flamingos and other migratory birds visiting Mumbai. Bird ringing or bird banding is the attachment of a small, individually-numbered metal, coloured flags to the leg or wing of a wild bird to enable individual identification.

“A comprehensive data will be available to us within a year with satellite tagging, which we can use to suggest conservation methods,” Khot said.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) is the second largest flamingo habitat along the West coast after Kutch in Gujarat. In January 2019, there were 1.21 lakh flamingos across 16 locations in MMR in areas such as Sewri mudflats, Thane creek, Vitawa, different locations in Navi Mumbai and Uran wetlands.

The study was proposed as early as 2013, but was put on hold as the Centre had banned the import of satellite transmitters used to put radio collars on birds, citing national security concerns. The Department of Telecommunications, under the Ministry of Communications, had issued a notification in early 2015, banning the import of all satellite telemetry devices.

The BNHS has now received an approval from the state forest deparment for the project, estimated to cost Rs 15 lakh. It is now awaiting a reply from the Union environment ministry. While the satellite tags required for the study have been imported, the research group is awaiting its deployment. “We are expecting the Centre’s approval in a week’s time,” Khot added.

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