While the use of Infrared and Thermal Technology (ITT) is not new to the conservation industry, the way it can be applied for both surveying for animals and protecting them is increasing. This is partly due to the co-operation of companies and NGO’s such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and FLIR as well as advancements in the technology of ITT itself.
As of 2016, FLIR has been working with the WWF’s Wildlife Crime and Technology Project with the aim to the prevent illegal activity within the Maasai Mara National Park by installing cutting edge ITT. The grant provided by Google.Org has allowed the WWF to fit thermal cameras to mobile units driven by rangers, as well as stationary infrared cameras throughout the park. These new additions to the conservation teams resources is helping them to become aware of poacher presence in the park as soon as the heat signature of a human is registered. The result of this collaboration has seen dozens of poachers captured and further sites and equipment (such as UAVs) have been added to the ongoing project.
When we look closer to home for the application of ITTs, the obvious one stands out, camera traps, which have been used to varying degrees over the years to check for the presence/absence of wildlife (such as Badgers, Great Crested Newts, Water Voles, etc). With the help of modernised ITTs, we are able to perform new types of surveys and gather more information, such as the use of Infrared torches used in conjunction with video cameras. This helps us to review footage taken during bat emergence surveys by lighting up the area the camera and torch are focused on without being visible to the naked eye, therefore not disturbing or discouraging the bats from entering the survey area.
The introduction of thermal cameras has been explored when surveying for bats, but has also been used to check for heat signatures on dormouse boxes. While current devices are not able to measure the inside temperatures of the boxes they are able to display the outside temperature. With that information we are able to establish if there is a noticeable difference between each box, this then allows us to roughly estimate the presence or absence of dormice without the need to disturb them.
With new technological advancements every year, wildlife conservation is only getting more effective; lets see what the next 12 months brings.
Natural England is working on a number of reforms to streamline licensing processes to make these more efficient both for customers and Natural England itself while still satisfying the three licensing tests. One area of licensing work that has been identified for review is the modification process for European Protected Species (EPS) mitigation licences. Natural England is looking specifically at modifications that do not alter Natural England’s conclusions on the purpose or no satisfactory alternative tests and importantly that would not impact upon the favourable conservation status (FCS) test of the species involved.
Each year a significant number of modification requests are submitted for relatively minor modifications to EPS mitigation licences. A decision has been made to include additional conditions on EPS mitigation licences to allow some flexibility in relation to changes to the timetable (great crested newts (GCN), bats and dormice) and to the licensable numbers (GCN only).
Licensable Activities Condition
This new condition will allow revisions to the programme of works, which changes the agreed work schedule where development works are subject to minor delays. The programme changes must meet a number of criteria in order to satisfy the requirements of the condition and therefore enable Natural England to conclude that the three licensing tests are still met. If the proposed changes do not meet all of these requirements a traditional modification request must be submitted for assessment. The key requirements of the condition are detailed in (a) – (d). The following notes provide further explanation on these requirements:
Changes to the programme of works must not result in any additional impact on any known or potential breeding sites or resting places, such as hibernation sites, as a result of timing changes. Additional impacts will require further assessment by Natural England to ensure that the FCS test continues to be met and therefore a modification request will need to be submitted.
The requirements set out in these conditions are imposed to allow Natural England to be satisfied that the FCS test continues to be met
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