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Cutting-Edge Conservation

Technological innovations are constantly improving people's lives. Now, they are doing the same for the natural environment, playing an increasingly important role in efforts to protect endangered migratory species.

BONN – A small airplane makes its final approach to land. But there is no airport, no landing strip, nor even a pilot to guide it down. This is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle returning from its mission: not hunting down terrorists or spying on foreign lands, but monitoring populations of rhinos and scouting for tiger poachers.

This drone is not fitted with turbo Rolls Royce jet engines or aperture radar; instead, it features a Google Map interface, cameras, and simple infrared sensors. And it is no more expensive than an average laptop computer.

Such cheap new technologies are changing the face of conservation; and, for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which administers the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, these new conservation tools cannot come soon enough. They fill the gaps in our knowledge about long-distance migration by species such as turtles, sharks, elephants, and birds. The data gathered are then used to develop tailored conservation strategies for these different species.

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