Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Partners in the Sky

Movement Ecology

Movement of animals is essential to maintaining ecosystems and ultimately a healthy planet. More than 6,000 species migrate, in journeys covering almost the entire globe, often spanning thousands of kilometers. More than ninety percent of the globe’s animals are too small to track. For larger species like elephants, conservation-tracking technologies are prohibitively expensive, have high failure rates, and are limited in range and resolution.

SCBI scientists are leaders in studying animal movement and its consequences for species, communities, and ecosystems. A comprehensive tracking program that SCBI can share across the conservation community has enormous potential for conservation science. Integrating migration data with key environmental and satellite data from other sources, potentially through one platform, will help scientists pinpoint what drives animal movement.

The worldwide conservation community could:

  • Track animals over their lifetime
  • Discover unknown migration routes
  • Understand the spread of infectious disease
  • Reduce human-animal conflicts
  • Combat poaching
  • Pinpoint the root causes of migratory bird population declines
  • Save species from extinction.

Tracking collared elephants in the wild. Photo by Centre for Conservation Research.