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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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Nominations for 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards now open

News Story 1
 People across the UK are being urged to nominate a standout animal champion for the 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards.

The awards recognise those who have worked tirelessly to improve animal welfare, campaigned on behalf of animals, or shown true bravery. Previous winners include comedian John Bishop, who was awarded Celebrity Animal Champion of the Year, and 11-year-old Lobby Cantwell, who raised more than £1,000 for the charity through mountain climbs and bike rides.

To submit a nomination or find out more about the awards visit the RSPCA website. Nominations will remain open until 4 pm on Friday, March 15.  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
New £1m project to investigate dairy cow lameness

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is leading a new £1 million research project to investigate the causes of lameness in dairy cows.

One in three dairy cows are affected by lameness every day in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £250 milion annually.

The project will take three years to complete and is due to finish by November 2021.

Professor Georgios Banos of SRUC commented: “In addition to pain and discomfort to the animal, lameness is associated with decreased milk production and inflated farm costs.

“Among cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. Understanding the reasons behind this will help us develop targeted preventive practices contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.”