London Zoo uses cycling air pollution sensors to track penguins and rhinos

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London Zoo is tracking penguins and rhinos in farflung corners of the world using the same sensors that help cyclists avoid pollution hotspots in the city.

The small, flat devices, which cost a few pence and are slightly bigger than a bank card, can detect vibration, sound and air quality. They send radio signals to base station boxes, which broadcast the data to satellites.

Digital Catapult, a non-profit tech organisation, has installed the sensors across London and programmed them to gather data to map pollution, allowing cyclists to plot cleaner commutes to and from work.

However, it is has now worked with game reserve rangers and London Zoo to set up networks of the low-powered devices in locations such as Kenya, Nepal, Australia, the Chagos Islands and Antarctica.

In elephant and rhino poaching hotspots, the sensors will show where there has been unusual movement, alerting authorities to the presence of humans.

The sensors can also track the movements of penguin colonies.

Sensors usually used to help London cyclists are being used to track penguin colonies.

Chief executive Jeremy Silver said: “You can put sensors in the field in remote locations and they can run on batteries for as long as five years.

“They can detect a variety of things, including water levels, changes in humidity, vibration and sound.

“It’s helpful if you’re trying to see if there’s an unusual pattern of vibrations in a location.

“The patterns that poachers would make are different to animals.”

Sophie Maxwell, London Zoo’s conservation technology boss, said: “We’re devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats, and this low-power wide-area network will add an additional technological edge to our work.”

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