If you love animals, and most of us do, you have to feel sad for the way human activity affects them. That’s why when I read about new ways to help counteract what we do, it makes me smile. The first instance I’ve recently came across is about birds. We are glad for wind power and the way it can help us with climate change. There is a downside to wind power, however: birds, including eagles, and bats run into the blades and die. But now there’s a camera with special sensors that can sense the birds coming and turn itself off. It’s called Identiflight and it can detect bird flights more than 5 times better than human observers and with a 94% accuracy. The system is able to calculate the birds flight speed and trajectory and if there is a conflict, it shuts the blades down.
The other innovation is with fishing nets. They kill thousands of porpoises, cetaceans and other aquatic mammals including whales. The simple insertion of plastic beads in the nets makes a crucial difference. These animals use echolocation to orient themselves and find their prey. They cannot sense the nets, but the insertion of beads alters the whole equation, because the beads can be sensed by the acoustic signals of the animals. They are made of acrylic glass with the same density as water and do not add weight to the nets. What’s even more important is that they can also be adapted to the different frequencies of different species. Daniel Stepputtis a marine biologist in Rostock Germany, is the innovator behind the beads, and for that we thank him.
Neither system is foolproof, particularly the beaded nets, but they are saving animal lives, and their existence makes us, me at least, look forward to other such innovations to help other animals affected by humans—Bees perhaps?