Tracking has its eyes on the future. I sat at the ZSL talk and listened. Tags are typical of technology – their duration of use depends on what you ask them to do. The more you ask of them, the less time they last. There are more and more sophisticated types of tagging coming along – including two-way transmission carried by Argos 2 satellite systems. In these types of trackers, you ask the tag something and it gives you the answer. Can you imagine? It’s like talking to the sea turtle.. ‘How are you today Mr. Turtle?’
‘Well.. where do I start? Sea is blue and jellyfish are tasty.’ Turtle talk.
Can you imagine? Surely that’d be the way to stop this planet’s animals dying out. If we can talk to each other. It seems we humans are at the level of communicative technology where not being able to communicate is unacceptable. Hopefully we better figure out a way of including animals in our conversations.
Can you imagine? A million snakes will be pithy on Twitter while the old pandas head to Facebook. Birds will flock to Instagram for the pretty pictures. Fish might find Snapchat suits their short-term memory. If they don’t, it will be hard to justify their existence. Without some form of communication, Earth’s animals are probably done for in our media-driven world. Except for rats and cockroaches of course. We’ll never get rid of those guys.
Right now tracking does seem to be our best interface. It also allows us to discover habitats we’ve never seen before. That became obvious when the lady from Swansea talked about her work tracking turtles in the Chagos Island Archipelago. Now, as a side note, this was also a discovery for me. I knew the Chagos archipelago is a British Island Territory. It has one of the last pristine marine environments left in the world. I knew that the British will not let the Chagossians return to their homes, instead making them permanent exiles on Mauritius. Cue the American military base the British host on the Chagos islands being too top-secret for even the local people to see.
I knew too the Chagos Archipelago has been made one of the largest marine protected areas in the world – 640,000 square kilometres (250,000 sq mi). What I didn’t realise was that it is also now the hotspot of marine biology research from the UK. If you study marine biology and you’re British, duh, of course you’d go to the most pristine water technically we own even though we obviously shouldn’t.
Two of the ZSL speakers focus their work in the Chagos. And the turtle lady’s work – tagging green and hawksbill turtles and seeing where they go has had some surprising results. Some turtles head off into the Indian Ocean as far as the African coast but others stay very localised and head to the Chagos bank, a shallow habitat system.
Tracking these turtles has uncovered deepwater seagrass beds. Deep water seagrass is a surprise to everyone – they were thought to be in shallow waster only since seagrass needs sunlight to photosynthesise and grow. Finding them 30 metres down is a refreshing discovery to make – with healthy fauna to boot.
‘Thanks Mr. Turtle. Can you tell us anything else?’
’Oh yeah. I got plenty more surprises.’
Keep talking, turtle. Keep talking.