Another year, another set of birds. During our first year using GSM-GPS telemetry we were able to tag 14 vultures. The GSM-GPS units allowed us to followt the vultures for nearly a year, learning valuable information about the areas they use, the speeds and altitudes at which they travel, and sadly the places where they are dying.
This year we have attached an additional 18 units and are continuing to follow the vultures. In September, I returned to Princeton University to teach and analyze data (the other side of science). Fortunately with the GSM capacity, I am able to download the data from the birds and continue to watch the tagged vultures fly across the great African plains. It is always miraculous to watch them from afar, imagining the beautiful landscape that the birds still travel over.
Watching from a distance is a great luxury, but it can also be a frustrating process. At the beginning of September we lost another bird, our first tagged Ruppell’s vulture mortality. At my current distance, there is little I can do to determine what has gone wrong, but I’m fortunate to have the help of people in Kenya like Munir Virani and Paul Kirui. The first week of October, Munir Virani was able to pick up the deceased bird and while the cause of death remains unknown, we were at the very least able to recover the unit. As in some of the previous cases, the location of the death suggest poisoning, but we won’t really know for sure until the samples come back from the lab.