Wild monkeys to carry forest fallout monitors

Fukushima University researchers plan to measure forest radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture by placing special monitoring collars on wild monkeys, in light of the nuclear crisis.

Each of the collars contains a small radiation meter and a Global Positioning System transmitter, and can be unclipped by remote control. This will allow a team led by robotics professor Takayuki Takahashi to recover the collars and collect the data within one to two months after the monkeys are released back into the wild, they said.

Radiation in forests is currently monitored mainly from the air, for example by helicopter, but the researchers believe they can get more detailed data through wild monkeys and aim to implement the project in an area of the city of Minamisoma by spring.

The project also is designed to check the radiation exposure of wild animals, they said.

In Minamisoma, 14 groups of monkeys are known to live in a mountainous area in the western part of the city, where radiation is relatively high. This will allow the team to break down the data by territory, they said.

Since male monkeys sometimes leave their troops, the survey will target females, they added.

They are also working on gauging radiation near the ground when a monkey is in a tree, by measuring its elevation via GPS.