Electronic eyes in the wild
New tracking technologies developed by Rolex Laureates are proving a powerful weapon in the race to save endangered species.
Introduction by Lucas Joppa

New tracking technologies developed by Rolex Laureates are proving a powerful weapon in the race to save endangered species. Tracking animals was once one of mankind’s most fundamental skills. Learning where animals ate, slept, and moved between the days and seasons was information critical in the fight for survival.

Industrial and technological advances have reduced the importance of such information for most people. Outside certain communities in Africa and Asia, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle has been abandoned and with it the tracking skills so prized.

Yet understanding where animals go, and what they do along the way, is now as important as ever. Tracking provides clues to how the natural world will respond to changing climates.

Technology may have obviated the need for people to retain their tracking skills, but it provides modern solutions to understanding the lives of animals at scales previously unimagined. With it, far-sighted, pioneering individuals are developing highly sophisticated tracking hardware and software. The ingenuity of these individuals, many of them Laureates of the Rolex Awards, is critical. Their dedication peels back our veil of ignorance about the variety of life on earth. I’m looking forward to their next discovery.

Lucas Joppa is a conservation scientist and head of Technology for Nature at Microsoft Research.

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