discussion / Biologging  / 24 November 2015

Mataki tracking tags—what's your experience?

I've read about the mataki tag with great interest, but I haven't had direct experience with them or heard from anyone who has. I would love to hear from those in the group who have had a chance to work with them. Tracking technology is one of the areas that our conservationist partners have the biggest challenges with (both cost and reliability), and I am hopeful this can be a viable option.

Hi Sophie,

Thanks for the reply. I'd love to hear about specific applications and the details of deployment: how they are affixed to the animal, how they are powered, how to get the data off of them, etc.

Also curious how to acquire them if one of my partners is interested in trying them out.

Thanks again!

Hi David,

ZSL has extensive experience here are some examples ...

1000+ seabirds across islands around the UK (e.g. Skomer, Lundy Islands), including some collaborative work with the RSPB 

100+ homing pigeons in Oxford and the surrounding area 

10 sloths (one in captivity at London Zoo), the remainder were pygmy three-toes sloths in Panama 

2 tigers in Corbett National Park, India 

The advice we would give depends on the context. It would be good to arrange a call to hear more about your requirements. In the mean time please check out http://mataki.org/ for all the requested info.


Hi Dave,

I don't know if you got more information in a call with Sophie, but for other people who might be interested:

- Mataki tags are not really manufactured by a company/research group in particular: the hardware and software plans are open-source and can be downloaded on the website (mataki.org). Users must build the tags themselves. Some online circuit-boards printers offer to solder the components in place as well: you need to provide them with all the circuit plans, parts and locations.

UPDATE #1: open-source plans (as well as lists of hardware) available on mataki.org are out of date and need to be updated by the user. 

UPDATE #2: as Dave mentions later in this thread, Debug Innovation is now manufacturing updated LITE (barebone 3.5g GPS boards) and CLASSIC (GPS+sensors) Mataki loggers. 

- On seabirds, Matali tags are deployed like regular short-term GPS tags (such as I-gotUs): they are water-proofed using heat-shrinking tube and attached to the bird's feathers using Tesa tape. It is also possible to develop harnesses using the same water-proofing method. On mammals, it seems like they have been attached to collars using heat-shrinking tube. I'm sure that stronger cases can be designed, using 3-d printing, for instance.

- the tags are usually powered by rechargeable batteries.

- the tags either store the data and must be recovered, or communicate the data to a base-station. Indeed, the firmware may be updated so that the tags communicate with each other: in this way, one tag may be configured to serve as a base-station and (once properly located and powered) store the other's data as they arrive within range. Users can access the data by connecting the tag to a computer with the same connector as used to feed the firmware: there are plans for a reader on the website.

Hope this helps,