Sirtrack on the right track
What do giant wetas and elephants have in common? They can both be found sporting tracking devices by Havelock North company Sirtrack Limited.
Wildlife researcher Dave Ward has seen enormous changes in wildlife tracking since he started working in the area in the late 1960s.
“We used to use 27 mHz radio trackers just over citizen band. Now we have very high frequency trackers that are very small with very small VHF radio components.”
These VHF transmitters are still the cheapest and smallest option to provide very accurate detailed information. But Sirtrack also manufactures devices that use a satellite tracking system and devices which use a Global Positioning System (GPS).
Customer demand led to the development of Sirtrack’s secondary product range. Personal Radio Markers (PRM).
The rugged work conditions of Department of Conservation (DOC) workers and others who use animal tracking devices lead them to approach the company and ask for a tracking device for themselves and/or their camps.
Sirtrack exports to around 60 countries. In New Zealand it supplies DOC, universities and the Goat Control Programme.
Sirtrack, a Landcare Research subsidiary, was developed on Mr Ward’s return in 1986 from Antarctica where he had been tracking penguins.
Mr Ward made tracking devices for his own research and when Landcare was given a mandate from the government to make money it was decided to make the transmitters for sale.
“New technology keeps you constantly on your toes and often the customer does the driving, as we are forced into developments to meet their needs.” Mr Ward says.
Each transmitter package is specially designed for each project. Three of Sirtrack‘s staff work on the coal face and really understand their customers needs while 10 staff are electronic engineers who design the systems.
Another seven staff work from home assembling transmitters, packages and producing saddling to belt the transmitters to the animals where appropriate. In some cases such as the giant weta, transmitters are attached with glue.
“Keeping things on primates and crocodiles is a constant challenge. We are continually making connections and finding different ways of doing things.”
At the moment Mr Ward is working out how to attach transmitters to Malaysian pheasants for the University of Malaysia.
Sirtrack has a strong reputation for reliability, which is envied by other companies.
“The cost of the equipment is nothing compared to the cost of putting the equipment on the animal.
“Because of our background in wildlife research we know what it’s like to work with poor equipment and we employ the right people.”
Photo caption – Above: Attaching a satellite transmitter to an Australian fur seal.
Photo caption – A giant weta carrying a 1 gram transmitter, which has a range of 200m and runs for 30 days.
Photo caption – Marking moose with radio collars in Norway.
Photo caption – Spotted tail quoll fitted with a radio transmitter in Tasmania.
Contact: Sirtrack Limited.
Address: Goddard Lane,
Private Bag 1403, Havelock North,
Tel: (06) 877-7736.
Fax: (06) 877-5422. Email:
Website: http://sirtrack.landcare.cri.nz [NB website address inactive 2016]