Vulture conservation gets very high tech.
The problem: Vulture populations are dying off, particularly in South Asia. This is a big deal because (1) conservation is important for all creatures, regardless of where they land on the cuteness scale and (2) vultures feed on dead animal carcasses, playing an important role in the ecosystem by helping to keep many diseases in check. (Interesting factoid: Vultures are immune to rabies.)
With a need to better understand vulture breeding behaviors to help strengthen vulture populations, The International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) approached Microduino to create an “e-egg” full of sensors to collect data on nest conditions, such as light intensity, carbon dioxide levels, barometric pressure, humidity and the surface temperature gradient. Collecting such data was not as simple as the ICBP originally thought. The egg has to encompass a lot of the required technology to gather and transmit data wirelessly, while remaining small enough to fool the mama bird. And one more thing: The e-egg has to function on its own for the entire incubation period of 70 days to avoid nest disruption.
To meet this challenge, Microduino created an egg with a complex system of sensors that transmit data to a relay station away from the nest, at which point data is uploaded to a cloud server.
If field-testing is successful and provides valuable information, then there are a number of ways the stealth technology could be deployed for other conservation efforts.
Birders everywhere, rejoice!