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Fukushima monkeys come in useful

August 16, 2012


Wild monkeys to be used for measuring forest radiation levels



A professor is planning to attach radiation measuring devices to wild monkeys to create radiation maps of forests contaminated by the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster.

"Investigating the contamination of forests is difficult ... For the sake of a detailed investigation, we'll have wild monkeys help us out," said Fukushima University professor Takayuki Takahashi, who is planning the project. The radioactive contamination levels of the forests that cover around 70 percent of Fukushima Prefecture are still not clear.

The investigation will be carried out together with a wildlife protection center. Wild monkeys in highly contaminated areas like Iitate or Namie will be captured, have devices to measure radiation with GPS functionality attached to their necks, and then be released back into the wild. After about a month of recording air radiation levels, the devices will be remotely detached and their data collected.

According to Takahashi, wild monkeys move in groups and live in territories covering around four hectares. Starting with one monkey, Takahashi hopes to then expand to use more of the animals and increase the size of the area covered.

In October last year, a test was done using a measuring device on a wild monkey in the city of Fukushima, but after the apparatus was recovered a problem with it prevented data from being accessed. Currently, Takahashi is working on improving the measuring devices with an aim to resuming tests in the fall.

"The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is conducting radiation monitoring with aircraft, but it is not getting detailed radiation amounts, so an early investigation is necessary. If all goes well with the monkeys, I would also like to use wild boars or dogs," said Takahashi.

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