Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Partners in the Sky

Aviation and Aerospace Industry Leaders Join The Smithsonian In Worldwide Conservation Efforts

Partnership will transform animal tracking

Unlocking the mysteries of animal movement through precision, near real-time tracking can solve major conservation challenges and transform wildlife science worldwide. For the past year scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have been working with aviation and aerospace leaders, led by Airbus Americas, Inc, to launch the "Partners in the Sky" program using aviation and aerospace technology to create a first-of-its-kind global animal tracking system.

Aviation and aerospace companies are volunteering their resources to help track the movement of thousands of animals, using technologies and programs similar to those they use every day–whether in satellite navigation, communication, and surveillance, or in high-fidelity tracking.

  Track Shanthi, an Asian elephant at the Smithsonian's National Zoo.
  Black-crowned night heron Track black-crowned night herons as they migrate between the National Zoo and the Gulf of Mexico.
  Track wild elephants in Sri Lanka.

Real-time tracking is not yet live, but will be soon!

Mapping Migration

To showcase the potential of the technology, the Zoo’s elephant Shanthi has been collared with a tracking device. Elephants in the wild in Sri Lanka will be collared by at the Centre for Conservation and Research. Using the Iridium satellite constellation, their positions will be graphically displayed on a kiosk at the Elephant Community Center and on the Zoo’s website.

Position reports from three recently tagged black-crowned night herons will also be included, marking the first time that scientists will actually know the migratory route and winter destinations of these birds after they leave the National Zoo each summer.

An “Animal Trax” module will be integrated into the Zoo’s app in mid-2014.  Through “Animal Trax,” users can keep track of the movements of their favorite animal.

These initial proof-of-concept technology demonstrations showcase the promise of Partners in the Sky.