Radiotelemetry and wildlife: Highlighting a gap in the knowledge on radiofrequency radiation effects

Sci Total Environ. 2016 Feb 1;543(Pt A):662-669. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.11.073. Epub 2015 Nov 23.


Radio transmitters and associated devices may induce negative effects that can bias the results of ongoing research. The main documented effects of radio transmitters on animals include reduced survival, decreased productivity, changes in behaviour and movement patterns and a biased sex ratio. The only factors that have claimed responsibility for these possible damages are the weight of the radio transmitter and associated devices, and the attachment type. The electromagnetic radiation produced by radio transmitters has not been considered so far in research. There have been no studies evaluating the effects of non-ionising electromagnetic radiation (radiofrequency signals) necessary for tracking, although the problems found were significantly associated with the length of time that animals had been carrying their radio transmitters. Similar problems as those in radiotracked animals have been found in numerous studies with animals exposed to radiofrequency radiation for a sufficient amount of time. Laboratory scientists investigating the orientation of animals know they have to shield the place where experiments are performed to prevent interference from man-made radiation, as anthropogenic signals may distort the results. It is paradoxical that, at the same time, field scientists investigating the movements and other aspects of animal biology are providing animals with radio transmitters that emit the same type of radiation, since this may affect the results concerning their orientation and movement. This paper identifies gaps in the knowledge that should be investigated in-depth. The possibility that the radiofrequency radiation from radiotracking devices is responsible for the findings should be considered. Considering this factor may allow researchers to best understand the long-term effects found.

Keywords: Long-term effects; Orientation; Reproduction; Survival; Tracking; Transmitters.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Radio Waves*
  • Telemetry