Radio-collaring – do the ends really justify the means?
I haven’t been a fan of radio-collaring for nearly 20 years my views having been reinforced by the sight of lemurs with radio collars and ridiculous name tags in Madagascar, and TV programmes ruined by Snow Leopards and Pumas wearing conspicuous collars.
However my dislike of it has reached new lows after a recent experience with researchers. Visiting a well-established primate research project we were disappointed to find that they planned to catch the animals while we were there as they were ‘roosting in an accessible tree’. This was bad enough but what made it worse was that having failed to catch the animals by reaching down into the holes in which they were sleeping, the researcher’s assistants proceeded to use a machete/axe to hack holes in the tree trunk so that the animals could be grabbed at the bottom of the roosting hole. They were then pulled out of the hole screaming and continued to scream throughout the processing. They were clearly stressed out throughout the whole process.
In my opinion although limited radio-collaring, conducted properly, has its place, particularly in the case of widely-ranging species, it is frequently overused and abused and has become what I would term ‘lazy science’. Far too much radio-collaring is going on in the name of science when it is actually little more than justification for a research grant for a PHd or likewise. In addition some of these projects run for far too long and add no additional information after the first few years. I have a similar frustration with the excessive colour-ringing and wing-tagging of birds.
The interest of the animal must surely come first and I do not believe for a moment that the stress caused to the animals can be justified on the grounds of the so-called ‘greater good of the species’.