Eagles with SMS trackers put researchers in debt after roaming trip

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A group of migrating eagles has left Russian researchers with sky-high phone bills. The beasts have trackers on their ankles that send their GPS coordinates via SMS, but they have been doing too much roaming in Iran.

One eagle in particular, named Min, flew to Iran with hundreds of saved text messages from the time it was out of reach. In Iran, text messages cost 49 rubles, or 69 cents, each, while the researchers expected the messages to have the opportunity to be sent in Kazakhstan or Russia, where they would cost 2 to 15 rubles each. This meant that Min had used up the entire telecom budget of the Russian researchers in one fell swoop.

The scientists were able to get the money back with a crowdfunding campaign called ‘top up the eagle’s call credit’, which raised about one and a half thousand euros. In addition, the researchers took out a loan to pay the telephone bill. “They really broke us,” one of the scientists told AFP. In addition, their telco, Megafon, has offered to waive the SMS charges and set up a cheap plan. All in all, this solves the researchers’ problems.

The steppe eagles are tracked because they are an endangered species in Russia and Central Asia. The GPS coordinates are checked with satellite images to check whether the animals are in a safe place. According to the BBC, power lines in particular are a threat to the birds. The eagles breed in Siberia and Kazakhstan, but fly to South Asia in winter.

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