As news breaks (courtesy of an FOI request by Raptor Persecution UK) of yet more Hen Harriers illegally killed on a grouse moor (around FIFTY are ‘missing’ or are known to have been killed in just thirty months), talk is turning inevitably towards finding a solution.
The licencing of grouse moors is now the default position for many conservationists, and while we (mostly) respect the conservationists involved we have very, very little respect for the idea of sanctioning grouse shooting, permitting the ongoing slaughter of native predators in traps and snares, and hoping against hope that the vague threat of an unenforceable licencing system will stop highly experienced wildlife criminals that have been getting away with it for years from continuing on down the same path. Call us cynical, but it seems to us that licencing is exactly what the raptor persecutionists want: once they’ve ticked the box and been granted licences, that will effectively be the end of trying to stop grouse shooting. And while there is grouse shooting there will always be the illegal killing of Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles, Goshawks and whatever avian threat estates imagine might impact their profits in the years to come…
Is there an alternative?
Aside from proper law enforcement (which seems as far off as ever), perhaps being able to record the criminals in action might be both a better deterrent and a better way to get estates in the courts (after all, there are already laws against killing birds of prey)?
Step forward Peter Howe, founder of 3rd Eye Technology (3ET), and his ingenious idea to develop a tiny camera that could sit alongside the satellite tags that are fitted to more and more birds of prey.
Sounds far-fetched? Encouragingly, smaller and smaller microchips are already in development. The University of Washington reported last year that it had managed to fit a tiny, steerable, wireless camera weighing about 250 milligrams to a beetle’s back. The camera streams video to a smartphone at 1 to 5 frames per second, “allowing a viewer to capture a high-resolution, panoramic shot or track a moving object while expending a minimal amount of energy“.
Peter explained his ideas in a recent press release:
3ET (a not-for-profit company) intends to produce CamTag®, a satellite tag with a camera, to work in conjunction with existing satellite tags, which are giving excellent data detailing persecution hotspots. By adding another string to the bow, the chances of collecting photographic evidence to help with future investigations seems a logical next step. How many times have you heard the cry “when will these tags have cameras on them”! It will also be useful to use such technology to capture images of their day to day lives.
The project will be in two stages. First of all, a Proof of Concept-POC (commonly known as a Feasibility Study-FS) needs to be concluded over an approximately 6-month period. Crowdfunding, Grants and Match Funding are being sought to allow this first phase, Stage 1, to be implemented. If the target sum can be successfully raised, it will mean an immediate start of the POC. The study’s criteria have been assessed and went out to tender to find a suitable company to conduct it, the cost will be £12000. A UK based microchip company has been chosen that will give the answers to the challenges faced to produce a fully functional CAMERA satellite tag, (although many answers were forthcoming in a recently commissioned university report for 3ET). It will also give a larger than life working prototype, and a budget forecast, which will then allow 3ET to plan and advance to Stage 2, the development, manufacturing and testing phase. The intention is to fund Stage 2 with further crowd-funding, grants & match-funding.
This is an ambitious challenge, with no quick fix way of getting to the end result and 3ET is under no illusions of the difficulties ahead, but science is now enabling us to at least try and attempt to safeguard our precious wildlife. The University of Washington has just managed to fit a video camera on a beetle, so don’t think for one minute that the technology isn’t available, it ‘just’ needs adjusting to suit the requirements needed to get it all into a compact lightweight backpack for our BoP!
Peter Howe, PROJECT CamTag®, Jan 2021
As Peter says above, this is indeed an ambitious challenge, but he first floated the idea over a year ago and to his credit has been pushing on through the Covid-19 pandemic – and, it has to be said, a lot of indifference – ever since.
Peter’s now launched a website at raptor3et.com, and set up a Crowdfunder to help support his plan. Crowdfunders don’t always deliver of course – and there are no guarantees here – but if you feel like a punt on someone we here at The War on Wildlife Project know personally and are happy to back ourselves, please click the image below: