Texting Eagles Bust Budget of Scientists

Birds flew into regions where texts were expensive
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 25, 2019 12:46 PM CDT
Texting Eagles Bust Budget of Scientists
A steppe eagle.   (Getty/Helen Davies)

A Russian wildlife group is seeking donations after eagles they were tracking racked up big cellphone bills abroad, per the AP. Elena Shnayder of the Center For Wild Animal Rehabilitation said Thursday that the group had fitted young steppe eagles with transmitters programmed to send text messages with their positions four times a day. The eagles spent summer in a part of Kazakhstan without cellular phone coverage, so the researchers expected a flood of accumulated messages when the birds migrated south. They were expected to pass through Kazakhstan or Russia where a text message is cheap: 2-15 rubles (3-15 cents) each.

Instead, some skirted those areas and didn't pick up a signal until they reached Iran, where messages cost 49 rubles (75 cents) each—many times what the scientists had budgeted for. “Our eagles fly with an ordinary SIM card from an ordinary Russian mobile operator and when they go abroad their phones go into roaming," writes Shnayder, per the Moscow Times. "But knowing their favorite places of wintering and countries through which eagles fly, it’s possible to count how much money we need to deposit on eagles’ mobiles to last the whole season. This year something went wrong." A (Russian-language) crowdfunding campaign has so far raised $1,600, asking people to "top up an eagle's mobile."

(More strange stuff stories.)

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