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Tracking Wildlife From Above

Satellites aren't just good for measuring urban growth or atmospheric chemistry or the impact of natural disasters -- they can count elephants, too.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, has been working with NASA to use satellite imaging to count wildlife. Their initial experiments -- spotting and counting their own animals at the Bronx Zoo from a pass by a QuickBird satellite -- proved quite successful, and they are now preparing to use satellite images to "count wildlife in exotic locations, including elephants and giraffes in Tanzania, flamingos in South America, and elk, bison and antelope in Wyoming." Counting from orbit has some advantages over traditional methods. Satellites can image otherwise hard-to-reach locales, can snapshot large expanses in one pass, and are much less stressful to animals than traditional counting methods of capturing and tagging or even flying overhead in low-flying aircraft.


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