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Migrating eagles run up huge roaming charges for scientists in Russia

Migrating steppe eagles flew unexpectedly to Iran resulting in huge roaming charges for their SMS tracker.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 28, 2019 5:02:35 pm
steppe eagle, roaming charges eagle, russia eagle flew to kazakhstan, eagle migration tracking, SMS charges eagle migration A migrating eagle flew to Iran ramming up huge roaming charges for researchers. (Representational image: Pixabay/Moo84)

Russian scientists tracking migration route of 13 endangered steppe eagles carrying SMS transmitters ran out of money as one of the birds, Min, flew out of range causing huge data roaming charges for the team. He sent hundreds of backlogged text messages at once as he flew from Kazakhstan, where rates are cheaper, to Iran, where rates are more expensive.

The steppe eagle was listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2015. The researchers from the independent RRR Conservation Network have been tracking eagles’ migration routes since 2015 to better understand possible threats to the Russian eagle population.

They equipped 13 eagles with tracking devices that send text messages with their coordinates four times a day. Every time a message is sent back, MegaFon, the Russian company operating the SMS transmitters, bills the scientists. The price per SMS in Kazakhstan was about 15 Rubles (around Rs 16.67) but each SMS from Iran cost 49 Rubles (around Rs 54.45), reported BBC.

Elana Shnayder, a scientist based in Siberia who works for the conservative network told New York Times, “Hundreds of text messages flooded in from Min at once, each costing 49 rubles, or 77 cents — more than five times the expected price — and blowing through the project’s budget.”

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Min seems to have been flown for months in areas without coverage, mostly in Kazakhstan and his transmitter sent the backlog when it connected to a network in Iran.

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“He disappeared for five months, and all of a sudden there he is, with a very, very heavy phone bill,” Shnaider added. She also said that Min’s data wiped our the researchers’ phone credit as it was already depleted by eagles that flew to Iran, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

The group had to resort to the crowdfunding campaign “Top up the eagle’s mobile” to cover the extra costs. MegaFon said it would refund a few months worth of roaming charges from Min and the other 12 eagles. It also offered special rates to the team to help them continue the project.

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