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PLoS One. 2016 Jul 22;11(7):e0159974. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0159974. eCollection 2016.

Feathered Detectives: Real-Time GPS Tracking of Scavenging Gulls Pinpoints Illegal Waste Dumping.

Author information

1
Estación Biológica de Doñana CSIC, Avda. Américo Vespucio s/n, Sevilla, 41092, Spain.
2
Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175, CNRS - Université de Montpellier - Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier - EPHE, Montpellier, France.
3
Percy Fitz Patrick Institute, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.
4
Computational Geo-Ecology, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam, 1090 GE, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Urban waste impacts human and environmental health, and waste management has become one of the major challenges of humanity. Concurrently with new directives due to manage this human by-product, illegal dumping has become one of the most lucrative activities of organized crime. Beyond economic fraud, illegal waste disposal strongly enhances uncontrolled dissemination of human pathogens, pollutants and invasive species. Here, we demonstrate the potential of novel real-time GPS tracking of scavenging species to detect environmental crime. Specifically, we were able to detect illegal activities at an officially closed dump, which was visited recurrently by 5 of 19 GPS-tracked yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis). In comparison with conventional land-based surveys, GPS tracking allows a much wider and cost-efficient spatiotemporal coverage, even of the most hazardous sites, while GPS data accessibility through the internet enables rapid intervention. Our results suggest that multi-species guilds of feathered detectives equipped with GPS and cameras could help fight illegal dumping at continental scales. We encourage further experimental studies, to infer waste detection thresholds in gulls and other scavenging species exploiting human waste dumps.

PMID:
27448048
PMCID:
PMC4957755
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0159974
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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