Wild Monkeys To Monitor Radiation Levels In Japan

By Douglas Main | December 15, 2011 8:15 am

How do you do to measure radiation levels in the hard-to-reach forests near Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant? Why, fit wild monkeys with radiation sensors, of course! Researcher Takayuki Takahashi tells CNN that his team plans to fit three monkeys in early 2012 with collars that measure radiation, as well as GPS units that record location and distance from the ground. The researchers plan to leave the monitors in place for about a month, before detaching them via remote control and picking up them up to retrieve their stored data.

The information thus gathered will help scientists understand how radiation travels through the environment and the effects it may have on humans and animals. Radiation levels in the area have been monitored from the air by helicopter, but this has yielded an incomplete picture of what’s going on at ground level. By fitting sensors on the monkeys—who rove along the ground and high in the trees—the researchers may get a better understanding of how radioactive fallout varies by elevation and differs between various habitats. The project will take place in Minamisoma, a mountainous area just outside the exclusion zone about 16 miles north of Fukushima Daiichi where as many as 14 groups of wild monkeys live, according to the Wall Street Journal. The team plans to fit more monkeys with collars in the near future, and may also enlist the help of wild boar.

[via CNN and the Wall Street Journal]

Image credit KENPEI / Wikimedia Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • Wendy Raven

    I think they should have sent the owners of this power plant along with any government officials involved in the debacle into the area with monitors on THEM, instead of innocent wild animals….why do humans always turn to animals to do their dirty work for them? It bespeaks a massive disconnect with other living creatures…..

  • Ug

    Relax Wendy, it’s not like they are torturing the monkeys. The scientists are just making sure we haven’t poisoned their home with nasty radiation, would you prefer we just assume everything is fine?

  • Scott

    Jeez Wendy! The scientists aren’t dropping these monkeys off. They’re already living there. Do you want to orchestrate a massive animal evacuation?

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    Wendy, it’s a sad commentary on the education system that you failed to understand the story. Read every word, missing a not completely reverses a sentence, read the part where they think there are something like 14 roving bands of monkeys in the area.

  • Chris

    Weekend update on SNL. Beware of giant monkeys

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