.:RFID Preserves Artic Polar Bears :.
The Norwegian Polar Institute is Norway's central institution for research, mapping and environmental monitoring of the Polar Regions.
The Institute studies environmental management issues such as global climate, long-range transported pollution, the effect of pollutants on the environment and biodiversity to ensure the best possible administration and conservation of the North and South Poles. The Institute also equips and organises expeditions to both poles, own the research vessel "Lance" and runs the Norwegian research stations Ny-Alesund, Svalbard and Antarctica.
The Institute employs 110 people at its main facility in Tromso and at field stations in Ny-Alesund, Svalbard and Dronning Maud Land in Antarctica. The Institute has been condusting research on polar bears for close to 40 years. The total artic polar bear population is around 25,000.
Scientists began tagging polar bears with RFID in 1992, and have since tagged approximately 1,300 bears. RFID tags, injected under the skin behind the left ear are used in conjunction with conventional ear tags and inner lip tattooing to identify the animals when re-captured.
Each time a bear is recaptured, it is identified by a TI RFID tag which is read using a handheld RFID scanner. Data on location, physical condition, family groups and samples entered into a database for research and analysis.
Polar bears are well-adapted to the hostile conditions of the artic, but their survival hinges on the availability of sea ice, which they rely on as a platform for hunting seals. This reliance makes polar bears extremely vulnerable to changes in climate and sea ice conditions. In additions, the bears spot at the top of the food chain makes them vulnerable to pollution carried up the food chain.
Scientists at the Norwegian Polar Institute have been studying how climatic changes and pollution affect polar bears for more than 40 years. Their research includes taking physical measurements and biological samples, recording habitat and family group information and studying the location and movement of bears using satelite telemetry.
Being able to reliably identify the bears is crucial to the researchers success; however, identifying polar bears throughout their lives and under artic conditions poses many problems. Polar bears live in some of the harshest conditions possible and any tagging system has to survive not only these conditions but also the bears active lives spent hunting, fighting and swimming.
Conventional eartags can be lost or damaged when hunting or when male bears fight. Even inner lip tattoos can be damaged and difficult to read after several years. Scientists needed a simple and more reliable technique that would allow accurate identification of each bear over long periods and under the extremely harsh conditions of the polar region where winter temperatures can plunge to -45° C.
The Norwegian Polar Institute chose an RFID tagging solution that uses 134.2KHz low-frequency hermetically-sealed transponders from Texas Instruments. The tags are placed just under the skin behind the left ear. Researchers use Allflex's compact handheld RFID readers supplied by Elecrona-Sievert, TI's Scandinavian distributor based in Sweden.
"Of the three ID methods, the RFID tags have performed well and are the easiest and quickest way to identify the bears. Ear tags can fall off and the tattoos can fade making them difficult to read" said Magnun Andersen of the Norwegian Polar Institute. "Of the 1,300 bears tagged, we have recaptured 260 bears and have used the data to better monitor polar bears and environmental changes that affect habitat."
"The Institute chose TI's tags for their reliability and because of the companies nearly 20 years of experience in the RFID market, "said Andersen. "As this is a long term program, we have to know that the RFID technology and tags will be available for many years to come. "
The Institute will continue to re-capture and release the bears on a regular basis every year or so to gather additional data to enhance its research capabilities. The Institute is responsible for providing the Norwegian government and other entities with the research information it needs to effectively monitor and manage the environment and its impact on the wildlife of the artic region.
"Following the success of the program, the Institute is planning to capture and tag even more bears in the future and RFID tags will play a key role in this on-going project to preserve polar bear habitat" added Andersen.
About Texas Instruments
Texas Instruments is the world's largest integrated manufacturer of radio frequency identification (RFID) transponders and reader systems. Capitalising on its competencies in high-volume semiconductor manufacturing and microelectronics packaging, TI is a visionary leader and at the forefront of establishing new markets and international standards for RFID applications.
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