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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Badgers go GPS as part of TB tracking

Published 01/04/2015 | 02:30

Irish badgers are being monitored by zoologists in the hope of reducing the spread of TB
Irish badgers are being monitored by zoologists in the hope of reducing the spread of TB

Zoologists are using hi-tech GPS systems to monitor the movements of Irish badgers in the hope of reducing the spread of TB and as a consequence the number of badger culls.

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Cattle can contract Tuberculosis, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis, from the nocturnal mammals if they are infected.

Determined to find a more humane way to prevent the spread of TB, Associate Professor in Zoology at Trinity, Nicola Marples, along with the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, have spent the past four years tracking 50 Wicklow-based badgers.

By better understanding the badgers' movements zoologists hope to devise a highly effective TB vaccination programme and reduce the number of badger culls.

"We've put collars carrying satellite tracking devices on more than 50 badgers," the associate professor explained.

"They send us texts to pinpoint their location at least four times during the night. We realised badgers actually avoid farmyards and are scared of cattle. Hopefully, we can devise a way of distributing a vaccine to badgers to prevent them giving TB to cattle."

This may be harder than anticipated given the domineering nature of the alpha male and female in a clan of badgers.

"We need to devise a way that Mr Badger, Mrs Badger and baby Badger all get the vaccine," she added.

The zoologist said this will not stop all culls but will hopefully add a depth of understanding and reduce the numbers.

Irish Independent

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