Biologging / Feed

Real-time tracking of animal movements is enabling more effective and efficient wildlife monitoring for management, security, and research. As devices get smaller and prices drop, the possibilities for using biologging on a larger scale have grown, and so have the possibilities for increasing customisation to meet specific research needs. Likewise, real-time tracking of illegal wildlife trade, timber, and fish products as they move from source to consumer can shed light on trafficking routes and actors, as well as support enforcement, making tracking gear a powerful tool beyond the field.


Performance of GPS-collars in wildlife research: what does the evidence show?

Calling on all conservation scientists and practitioners who have worked with GPS-collars for studying or monitoring wildlife worldwide! Dear colleague,...

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Fantastic, thanks Maarten! I've shared your response with Abby, so hopefully you'll have some info coming your way very soon. 

Hi Maarten, 

I'm curious to hear how the survey went and at what stage you're at. Do have any preliminary results to share yet? Anything expected/unexpected come out of the surveys, or big questions that our community could mull over? 


Hi Steph,

the survey is closed now, and I'm in the process of screening data. I hope to start with the analysis soon.

So unfortunately, nothing new or exciting yet...


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Looking for a long term real time tracking technology for monitoring big game in South Africa

We currently use handheld radio telemetry, however for the amount of individuals we want to monitor it is not possible to continue this way. If anyone has knowledge of, or...

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One point of clarification - Kineis is Argos.

CLS split off the management of the Argos satellite system from itself thereby creating the company called Kineis (a subsidiary of CLS). Kineis' goal was to acquire enough funding ($100m) to launch the 20+ nanosatellites by 2020, and the goal was fully funded a number of months ago. So now it's just a matter of manufacturing the satellites and launching them (one is already in orbit). 

I would disagree with your comment about "antenna size issue" with Argos because you can use a patch or a whip antenna. In addition, the whip antenna could be extremely thin and flexible such as using nitinol. With nitinol, for example, you can tie a knot into the antenna, and it would return to its regular state once undone. Of course with a whip antenna you do have a long wire coming out of the tag; however, that can be addressed with a patch antenna for terrestrial applications. Thus, it offers a flexible solution. 

I will also add that you can fill in those data gaps and in fact build a "terrestrial-like" network within the Argos framework by deploying a number of the Argos Goniometer stations. In that scenario you would have a tagged rhino transmitting to the Argos satellites, and as you know if a satellite is not overhead the message is lost. However, if there is an Argos Goniometer within range (tens of miles +/-) you will receive that message even if a satellite is not overhead. 

One last comment that I'll add is that the power requirements for an Argos transmission are a fraction of what is required from Iridium and/or Globalstar. Right now the lowest power output that I am aware of is 250mW; however, we expect to more than half that when the constellation is launch (70-100mW transmissions). I am not that familiar with some of the new sat tech in regards to transmitter design, output, etc. I suppose the one good thing about having an "old system" is that we know so much more about what can be done and what cannot be done. 

Anyways, happy to answer any questions you might have regarding Argos and/or Iridium. 


Dear Sophie,

I would like to comment directly on your post regarding your assessment and report about rhino tracking devices in wildlife conservation. I believe it is good to share thoughts and ideas on the WILDLabs forum about these topics, but people should be very careful when they are making bold statement with regards to performance of technology. Some elements in your reporting are highly speculative and lack detailed input from the actual users in the conservation field.

We find this quite concerning as you are not only misinforming people on the WILDlabs-forum, but you might also be providing your own administration (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs)with incorrect information.

With regards to the LoRaWAN based rhino trackers we like to set the following straight and we also raise some questions.


  • Did you have contact and feedback from people that actually have a personal experience in LoRaWAN based tracking devices for rhino in the field? As far as I know, the people you report about, do not have this experience. I recommend you to look for people in the field that do have this experience, such as park managers of African Parks and Peace Parks.

2.1) Satellite enabled trackers.

  • “Africa Wildlife Tracking are the most mature and reliable tracking solution”; How do you know this and what is your source? What numbers did you use to come to this conclusion?
  • Why do you name “Argos” CLS as a rhino tracking solution?
  • Telerax: “Cited by the community as reliable”; What are your sources here?
  • Ear tracking: Who is reporting that ear tag tracking is not an option? This is not a given, so please state your sources so we can verify this.

I realize your attempt is a light-weight update for DEFRA and not an in-depth investigative article, but this level of light-weight leans a bit more to very light-weight if the sources are not named. Or if the sources have vested interests. It’s unlikely that you’ll go into detail with regards to the sources but I find the stated information very superficial to be honest.

2.2) IoT Fixed Infrastructure Tags;

  • About your general comment on the “IoT Fixed Infrastructure Tags” – Why do you state that the costs for the infrastructure are “costing several £100,000s” – again, who/what is your source and how is this calculated?
  • “Leading solutions in this IoT space seem to be SMART Parks and Sigfox” – again, who is your source and what makes you think Smart Parks is leading? The same goes for Sigfox. For Sigfox I even think you need to identify the solution and not the technology, since Sigfox is “only” a network technology compared to LoRaWAN and is not a end-to-end solution.
  • Why are you including links to the websites of the satellite solutions and not to the Smart Parks solutions, even when this is as simple as
  • Why are you reporting on the failure of Smart Parks rhino tags “however, there have been recent challenges with their newly miniaturized version, where 5 out of 6 units failed after a short time in Malawi. This could be an anomaly, as their previous versions worked well and we welcome further updates.”?; Who is your source and what did you do to verify this?
  • Sigfox: “We have heard some dissatisfaction with customer service and the capability to integrate data with other software and hardware solutions.” Again, who is your source and what makes you say this? Also, why are you speaking of “We”, as I understand this was a personal blogpost?
  • Cisco: What makes you say that Cisco “provided IoT trackers” and what is your source?

3) What are the emerging solutions?

  • Can you explain why CubeSats are the way to make rhino tracking devices smaller, cheaper and more secure? As you indicate: “Where there is great potential to bring smaller, cheaper, secure satellite tracking to solve these problems”.
  • What makes you conclude like this: “Whoever provides cheap tags, small transmitters, multiple gateways with super low costs data will win for wildlife conservation in this exciting new space.” What are your sources and what is the reasoning behind this? (deze zou ik niet doen)

I think a lot of your statements are debatable and not very well substantiated. I’m willing to go as far as to say that they are more damaging than providing solid information to the Wildlab-community and abroad. The community working on trying to find and build better solutions needs reliable information as this is already a very complex problem. Therefore, I would like to suggest that you improve the blogpost where possible with thorough and reliable information. I’m happy to assist you in finding the right information.

To get you started, I would like to offer you some key facts about what Smart Parks has been doing to make a rhino tracking solution:

  • In 2017 we have successfully deployed a LoRaWAN rhino horn implant into an Eastern Black rhino in Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania, and the device has giving location update for 2 years without any major issues. The sensor even continued working after it had grown out of the horn. This is a clear proof that a LoRaWAN Geoloc based solutions is perfectly fine for rhino tracking in situations where a LoRaWAN Geoloc network is possible. We have replicated these result in other parks in Africa. Please check our website and other sources for proof:
  • In 2019 we have successfully deployed a LoRaWAN rhino horn implant into Eastern Black rhino in Liwonde National Park in Malawi. This new sensor does not use LoRaWAN Geoloc to update it’s position, but relies on GNSS (GPS). This allows for rhino tracking based on LoRaWAN in networks and areas that can not or do not want to use the Geoloc function. GNSS can offer higher location accuracy then the Geoloc method. Yes, we have had some issues while deploying prototypes into the field, but this is normal for these type of solutions. We now have a stable sensor in production that is working properly in multiple locations in Africa. Please also look around for proof and maybe start here:
  • An important note I would like to add and something I believe is missing from your comments in general, is fact that we have started the OpenCollar Initiative, under which we have made the rhino LoRaWAN + GPS tracker completely open-source.
  • Also, you are talking about rhino tracking solutions, however you only discuss the actual tracking devices in your blog post. Please also look at the Application level (what happens to the data) of these solutions, since there are also very important in the total solution.

I’m also happy to put you in touch with park managers who are actually working with the sensors on a day-to-day basis.

Hi Tim and also Thomas

Thanks for your comments. It is fantastic that there have been so many replies to this thread in response to the request for thoughts, clarifications and questions on this topic.

I’m available on email. You can reach me directly via WILDLABS messages.


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Integrating wildlife tracking with other technologies

Hello all, An interesting article that outlines the use of radio tracking in combination with physiological sensors to assess the effect of habitat on the physical well-being...

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Hi Paul, 

Interesting question. Are you interested in hearing about case studies that are investigating these sensor integrations? If so, I'm happy to share a number of examples I know of.  

This article in the WILDLABS.NET resources area might have a few additions for the list. It profiles a lot of different examples of conservation tech (and includes links and videos), so it's worth checking out. 

A new addition to the list I've spotted is a magnetometer - part of a slew of sensors UC Santa Cruz has added to a SMART collar they've developed for Pumas. From the aforementioned article:

UC Santa Cruz: SMART Collar 

Scientists at UC Santa Cruz have developed a Species Movement, Acceleration and Radio Tracking (SMART) Collar to study puma movements and caloric needs, similar to a Fitbit. The collars include a GPS unit, accelerometers, and a magnetometer to provide detailed data on where an animal is and what it is doing. 

After callibrating the collars with captive pumas, the team were able to were able to continuously monitor the movements of mountain lions in the wild and determine how much energy the big cats use to stalk, pounce, and overpower their prey. These findings help explain why most cats use a 'stalk and pounce' hunting strategy. 

The researchers were able to quantify, for example, the high energetic costs of traveling over rugged terrain compared to the low cost of "cryptic" hunting behaviors such as sit-and-wait or stalk-and-ambush movements. During the actual pounce and kill, the cats invest a lot of energy in a short time to overpower their prey. Data from the collars showed that mountain lions adjust the amount of energy they put into the initial pounce to account for the size of their prey.

The team now wants to look at mountain lion energetics in a range of different habitat types. In particular, they are interested in how human land use and habitat fragmentation may be influencing the energetic demands on mountain lions in the wild. They also have projects using the new collar technology to study other large carnivores, including wolves, polar bears, and Weddell seals.

For more information, visit the Santa Cruz Puma Project website


Let me know if you're interested in a list of case studies for the environmental conditions you've already identified and I'll share my secret stash :) 




Hi Paul, 

I just remembered another one for the list. @BethClark is taking some really cool environmental readings for seabirds - Gannets - basically to build a picture of their lives in 3D. She talks about it on her blog here.

A few excerpts: 

Electronic devices are attached onto the birds to record their behaviour: GPS, altimeters, accelerometers and dive recorders. The key will be to use multiple loggers on the same bird to record their flights in great detail. The GPS tracking project has been going on Grassholm for a few years now and we are building up a good picture of where they tend to forage.

The altimeters show the height above the sea, which gives us 3D tracks of the birds’ movements – very cool! The higher you are, the further you can see, but the more difficult it is to pick up scents from the sea. We will find out if these 3D help us pick out foraging behaviour and see how they actually find fish (and fishing boats) in a huge and seemingly featureless ocean.

Dive recorders show the timing and depth of the famous torpedo plunge dives, which will let us know when the birds have successfully found a fishing ground.

The accelerometers measure acceleration in 3 directions, showing even a single wing flap. This will help us to measure how much effort the bird are putting in when they travel and forage, which is very important for trying to figure out how they decide where to go. We will also be able to identify other behaviours, such as telling apart high-speed plunge diving from a slower dive made from the surface.

I think altimeters and dive recorders might be new ones for your list. Beth's here on WILDLABS.NET (and has promised a nice case study for our Resources area), so I think she'd be delighted to answer any questions you might have. 




Hello again!

An interesting paper exploring the new technologies being used to study cetaceans has a section devoted to what they term high-resolution multisensor tags (page 4).

As with @BethClark 's work above, the questions that arise when studying marine mammals bring another dimension into what information we might require sensors to collect. For example: 

Among cetaceans, there are two suborders: Odontocetes (toothed-whales) and Mysticetes (baleen whales). In general, toothed whales and dolphins use high-frequency acoustics for interanimal communication and feeding. In the marine environment, where sight is limited, sound propagates extremely well and all marine mammals communicate primarily through acoustic cues. Similar to bats, toothed whales and dolphins feed via high-frequency sound production known as echolocation, where acoustic signals reflect off of targets and the returning echoes can be translated into information on the environment or potential prey. For many years, independent passive acoustic recorders have been used to study the vocalizations of marine mammals. However, the incorporation of acoustic recorders (hydrophones) into animal-borne tags has only occurred in the past 20 years (Fletcher, Le Boeuf, Costa, Tyack, & Blackwell, 1996). The information that is recorded on the sensors in these tags (e.g. acoustic, movement) can be used to determine the frequency and acoustic structure of vocal behaviours that occur concomitant with motor behaviour, for example, echolocation signals during feeding events (Madsen, De Soto, Arranz, & Johnson, 2013) or contact calling while diving ( Jensen, Marrero Perez, Johnson, Aguilar Soto, & Madsen, 2011). Echolocation ‘clicks’ and ‘buzzes’ have been used from animal-borne tags to study the foraging behaviour of a wide range of odontocetes, from the small harbour porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, to the largest, the sperm whale (Fais et al., 2015; Wisniewska et al., 2015). This information has provided critical data on the feeding depths, frequency, timing and prey types targeted by different species and the behaviours associated with foraging (Johnson, de Soto & Madsen, 2009). These insights into feeding behaviour have recently been used to help determine foraging performance and foraging ecology (Watwood, Miller, Johnson, Madsen, & Tyack, 2006), as well as the energetic consequences of disturbing this behaviour (Miller et al., 2009). These new data products are ripe for linking to conservation efforts such as the individual and population consequences of human activities disrupting these behaviours (e.g. the use of naval sonar and seismic surveys). We explore below the tools produced, as well as new ones in development, to forge these links.

You have already identified sound in your original list, but I think the use of hydrophones with tags is an interesting addition - an example that didn't immediately spring to mind (at least for me), when I thought about the list. 




In Press: Nowacek, D. P., et al., Studying cetacean behaviour: new technological approaches and conservation applications, Animal Behaviour (2016),


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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...

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Hi Joaquin,

The first versions of Mataki tags were open-source and the PCB build information was available online.  However the components for this version are obsolete and, if you can get them, are very expensive.

The latest versions of Mataki and the new Mataki-Lite are available commercially from my company and all the information is available at  My contact information is on the website if you have any questions.



Hi Dave.
Thanks for your answer.
I saw the Debug Innovations website, the Mataki Little is very interesting.

Either way I am looking for open-source to be able to make our own transmitters because buying electronic devices abroad is very complicated and expensive for us.



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Help needed engineering solar/battery system for tracking collar

Greetings, I have a couple of colleagues who is working on a next generation tracking collar for painted dogs and elephant seals. The electronics are all designed, but...

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This sounds very relevant. I'll pass along to my colleagues.  Thanks for sharing, @jprobert and @mygshah !

@Dave any updates on this project?

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