Posted by: Bridgett Hernandez

  • 12/02/2020

ACRES and Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo partner to track wildlife

Our friends at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo strive to make a difference for animals every day by participating in programs and initiatives to protect animals and their habitats. ACRES is excited to partner with the zoo to create and continue local conservation projects.

Notice any weird wire towers while hiking at an ACRES preserve? Though the towers might look like alien communication devices, they actually track wildlife! The towers are part of the Motus Wildlife Tracking System, a worldwide project to study the movement and or migration of small animals.

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo partnered with ACRES to launch the project locally by setting up four Motus towers. The zoo installed one tower at its site. The other towers were installed at three ACRES preserves: Wildwood, Dygert Nature Preserve and Blue Cast Springs.

Joe Smith, Director of Animal Programs at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, explained: “We really wanted to work with ACRES Land Trust to install Motus towers because there were none in the northeast Indiana region when we first started this project. Now there are seven towers in Indiana, four of which are ours.”

ACRES Director of Land Management, Casey Jones, said, “I thought it would be interesting to have the ability to track a chipped animal through our area. I found three ACRES sites along the same latitude as the zoo. Because the towers’ ranges overlap a little bit, we should be able to get a complete picture of what’s moving across this part of the state.”

How does this tracking system work?

Researchers around the world participating in the Motus Wildlife Tracking System fit small, lightweight radio-transmitters on animals such as birds, bats and large insects. When these animals are within range of a Motus tower, their signal is detected via automated radio telemetry arrays. The data from the towers is sent to the Birds Canada National Data Centre, where it is analyzed and uploaded to the online public network. Each radio transmitter emits a unique signal that allows researchers to determine what type of animal is moving, where it’s going, how fast it’s moving between towers and how long it stays in an area.

“This project not only allows the public to track migration of small animals, it also can help provide data to people for their projects,” said Smith.

ACRES Land Management Specialist Matt Dunno (front center) poses for a selfie with the zoo crew after a successful tower installation

The ACRES Land Management crew worked with a team from the zoo to install the Motus towers in 2019. With some maintenance, the towers will remain standing for years to continue tracking wildlife.

“Though ACRES doesn’t currently use the data, we are happy to partner with the zoo to offer the necessary space for the Motus towers and be part of a larger international research network,” said Jones. “And it is interesting to see what animals move through our area, and where they end up on their journey.”

Would you like to learn more about this project, or check out the data for yourself? Visit motus.org

Photos courtesy of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo


beth jewett - September 16, 2021 - 1:58 pm

Hi, Wondering if you have any information you could share with me, that is elementary age appropriate, that I could use to write a few lesson plans. Thank you Beth

Bridgett Hernandez - September 20, 2021 - 10:32 am

The Motus website has some great educator resources and student activities, which you can find at https://motus.org/education/. Thank you for your interest and sharing this conservation project with your students!