Tiny Solar-Powered Backpacks May Help Save Endangered Population of Plains Wanderer

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Tiny solar-powered backpacks, an experimental product, assist a collective effort to save an endangered bird species in Australia. 

(Photo : Patrick_K59/ Wikimedia Commons)
There are thought to be between 250 and 1,000 of these tiny, ground-dwelling birds left in the wild today. They are exclusively found in the desert grasslands of south-eastern Australia. According to Bush Heritage, a Plains Wanderer is a closer relative of gulls and coastal birds, despite having longer legs and a finer bill that resemble quail. Its nearest relative, the plant-eating shorebird South American Seedsnipe, is believed to have evolved 60 million years ago when Australia was linked to South America and Antarctica.

The Endangered Plains Wanderer

As reported first by The Guardian, the semi-arid grasslands of northwest Victoria and the New South Wales Riverina are home to small, fawn-colored, ground-dwelling plains wanderers.  

The birds were originally common throughout eastern Australia, but their numbers have drastically decreased over the past ten years. Their known habitat is largely on private land. 

Furthermore, plains wanderers have highly specific requirements. Droughts, in particular, will not sustain the birds since insect numbers decline, food is in short supply, and nesting materials are scarce.  

However, with too much rain, weeds may grow rapidly, forcing the birds to flee.  

There may be between 500 and 1,000 plains wanderers surviving in the wild, according to recent estimates. The plains wanderer was listed as critically endangered by the Australian government in 2015.

In the NSW Riverina region’s Oolambeyan national park, 15 birds have now been released. Due to its significant conservation value as a vital habitat for the plains wanderer, it was permanently protected in 2002, according to The Guardian. 

The release is a part of a $175 million, 10-year program that brings together the governments of NSW, Victoria, and South Australia to safeguard the survival of the species. 

File:Plains-wanderer female 8173.jpg

(Photo : JJ Harrison/ Wikimedia Commons)
There are thought to be between 250 and 1,000 of these tiny, ground-dwelling birds left in the wild today. They are exclusively found in the desert grasslands of south-eastern Australia. According to Bush Heritage, a Plains Wanderer is a closer relative of gulls and coastal birds, despite having longer legs and a finer bill that resemble quail. Its nearest relative, the plant-eating shorebird South American Seedsnipe, is believed to have evolved 60 million years ago when Australia was linked to South America and Antarctica.

Read also: This DIY Technique Could Revolutionize Solar Energy Into Outer Space 

Solar Backpacks

The solar backpacks will serve as a solution to the long-standing problem of how researchers understand wild bird movements. 

The backpacks will be monitored by satellites and have a two-year lifespan. In the past, only a transmitter in the field could be used to track the birds, and the battery life was only good for 12 weeks. 

James Griffin, the environment minister for NSW, stated that monitoring their travels after release was a culmination of their efforts to save the species from extinction. 

“These solar backpack-wearing plains wanderers are paving the way for us to gather important data, which will ultimately help us improve our conservation efforts for wild populations into the future,” Griffin said in a statement. 

Related Article: China’s Massive Solar-Powered Drone Is Two Times Bigger Than Airbus’ Zephyr S 

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Written by Joaquin Victor Tacla

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