Challenge

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Safely tracking and monitoring endangered animals

How many African elephants are left in the world and how fast are they being lost to poaching? How far do whales travel? How many turtle hatchlings survive? Answers to these basic questions are critical to saving these and other endangered species and to the conservation of the biodiversity of our planet.
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Nature and Context

Despite its importance, this basic data is barely available for just a handful of species. The official body that tracks the conservation status of planet’s species, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™, currently has over 79,000 species. Yet, the Living Planet report, the most comprehensive effort to track the population dynamics of species around the world, includes just 10,300 populations of just 3,000 species. That’s not even 4%! Scientists do not have the capacity to observe every species at the needed spatio-temporal scales and resolutions and there are not enough GPS collars and satellite tags to do so. Moreover, invasive tracking can be dangerous to the animals.

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