Blue Whales, Emus Tracked By Australians

Blue whales and emus can be tracked by Australians with high tech

Blue whales and emus are two big animals now being tracked by two separate teams of Australian researchers, according to news reports this week. Both studies involve outfitting the blue whales or the emus with special devices to allow satellite tracking of where they freely wander in their wild environments.

The six emus are being outfitted with the GPS trackers by Murdoch University professor Neal Enright, who is conducting a two year study of the big birds in Avon National Park. The small devices can actually be programmed remotely to update less frequently to conserve battery power or to update more frequently to give more detailed information.

Now here’s the fun part. The good professor is studying how emus encourage the growth of their home, the jarrah forest, by eating plants and then spreading the seeds. That’s right. The GPS tracking device will allow the team to easily find some fresh, erm, emu droppings all ready to sample “to test how passage through the emu gut influenced subsequent seed germination.”

The Australian Blue Whale Project, backed by the Australian government, is even more high-tech. After spending several weeks on tiny research vessels in icy Antarctic waters, the team was recognized by the Australian environment minister Tony Burke, quoted in Australian news reports on Wednesday as stating, “This research reinforces Australia’s commitment to non-lethal research of whales.”

And, yes, if you think that’s a tiny dig at Japan’s notorious whaling “research” vessels, which kill the whales to allegedly study them, you might be right.

Leaving politics aside, the Antarctic Blue Whale Voyage 2013 departed on January 29 and returned earlier this month. The team fitted two whales with satellite tags and also set up acoustic buoys capable of picking up the the song of the blue whales at distances of up to 100 kilometers.

The first ever satellite tag was placed in February after a team of five approached the huge animal in a small inflatable boat. In all, they collected 626 hours of blue whale songs and 23 biopsy samples from the gentle giants that can grow to be almost 100 feet long.


Tracking big animals like blue whales and emus sounds like a blast. Wish I was there. How about you?

blue whales

[blue whale mother and calf courtesy Andreas Tille and Wikipedia Commons]
[photo emu in Australian sanctuary courtesy Diliff and Wikipedia Commons]