GPS Tracking Used to Help Save Puffins from Extinction

8 Aug 2018

Skomer Island, which is located right off the coast of Pembrokeshire, is well-known for its flourishing puffin population. Every year, about 6,000 of these adorable puffins travel to the island for the spring and summer months.

The puffin population growth has nearly quadrupled in the last three decades in the area. Skomer Island enjoys the largest colony of puffins in Southern Britain, but globally the population of puffins is on the decline, and the population is declining in other parts of Europe.

Concerned researchers have initiated a wide-scale study on these Skomer Island puffins in an attempt to learn more about what attracts them to the island. This study is being managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and is funded by Sky Ocean Rescue.

Conservationists have decided to equip puffins with GPS tracking devices and camera. These important devices will allow researchers keep track of where the puffins frequent, where they search for food, how they catch food and exactly what types of food they are eating regularly.

Scientists were surprised to learn that puffins often travel over 75 km one way to locate food each day, and then travel back the 75 km (nearly 47 miles). For a tiny puffin, that journey is impressive. To help assist with their research, scientists are also planning on collecting and analyzing puffin droppings.

Biologists hope this research sheds light on why the puffin population is flourishing on Skomer Island but declining elsewhere. Researchers believe that plastic pollution and other human waste is making it difficult for puffins to live and breed as they have in the past. The problem has become so widespread that puffins were added to the endangered species list in 2015.

Once the Skomer Island puffins have been studied, researchers want to travel to Iceland and Norway. While Iceland and Norway both have larger populations of puffins, their numbers have been significantly declining in recent years.

Researchers want to initiate the same GPS tracking techniques on these puffins to determine what is causing the population to drop.

Biologists are convinced that puffins will go extinct within the next 100 years if humans don’t make an effort to help keep the seabirds safe.

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