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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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New app to improve street dog welfare

News Story 1
 A new free app will support vital work in clinics caring for stray dogs around the world, experts say. Created by the University of Edinburgh, the tool allows vets to track the wellbeing of dogs going through catch-neuter-return schemes, which are common in countries with large numbers of strays.

Vets say the welfare of individual dogs can be overlooked during the process of capture, transport or surgery. The app, piloted across Asia and Africa, helps staff to monitor welfare, spot signs of distress and develop strategies to improve care. It was launched at BSAVA Congress on Friday 6 April.  

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Farm to fork traceability championed in new service

Defra has created a new information service to offer farm to fork traceability when the UK leaves the EU. The Livestock Information Service, which is set to be operational from 2019, will identify and track animal movements via electronic IDs, meaning the industry and government are better placed to respond in the event of a disease outbreak.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “This service will be instrumental in improving traceability and providing guarantees to consumers about the origin of their food. NFU President Minette Batters, among others, has helped lead the way on this, showing how it will drive a progressive and vibrant livestock industry once we leave the EU.”