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Environmentalists develop novel device to track harbour seals
The harbour seal population in Orkney has fallen by around 70 per cent in recent years.
Device uses mobile network to transmit valuable data 

Environmentalists in Scotland have developed a novel way to keep track of a declining seal population.

Created by the University of St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) and colleagues at Vodafone, the mobile transmitter can track where harbour seals go at sea and relay that information when they return to the surface.

The device is attached to the seal to log data on behaviour, such as dive depth, location and temperature. It then delivers the information back to the researchers via the mobile network.

According to research by the SMRU, the harbour seal population in Orkney has fallen by around 70 per cent in recent years. The group has received government funding to investigate the causes of this decline.

With the data they receive back from the transmitters, the researchers hope to identify the causes of pollution as well as the various effects it has on the ocean’s ecosystem. The project, dubbed “The Internet of the Seas,” may also reveal insights into why seal numbers are dropping.

Dr Bernie McConnell, deputy director of the SMRU, has seen the impact we are having on our seas first hand from his research in the Orkney Islands and strongly believes we need to be taking much more care.

He said: “We have to think more carefully about how we use the oceans and ensure we don’t use the oceans as a dumping ground. It’s a living system and if we don’t take care of it, it will get ill. The drop in the harbour seal population could be one of those symptoms”.

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Vets save premature penguin chick

News Story 1
 Vets have saved a tiny Humboldt penguin chick after her egg was accidentally broken by her parents. Keepers at ZSL London Zoo were shocked to find the chick, named Rainbow, still alive and rushed her straight to the Zoo’s on-site veterinary clinic.

It was a little way to go until the chick should have hatched, so the process was touch and go. Vets removed bits of shell from around the chick with tweezers until she could be lifted out and placed in a makeshift nest.

Rainbow is now in a custom-built incubation room where she spends her days cuddled up to a toy penguin. Keepers will hand-fed Rainbow for the next 10 weeks until she is healthy enough to move to the penguin nursery.  

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BVA infographic to help shoppers understand farm assurance schemes

An infographic to help members of the public understand farm assurance schemes has been produced by the BVA. The infographic outlines BVA’s priorities for animal welfare and shows whether or not the schemes address these priorities in their standards.

BVA president John Fishwick said: “The infographic is not intended to be a league table but to allow people to understand what aspects of animal health and welfare are addressed by assurance schemes so that they can decide which scheme best aligns with their own individual preferences and priorities."