Female monkeys in the mountain areas in Minami Soma City in Fukushima will be fitted with dosimeters so that the researchers at Fukushima University can collect data on radiation levels in the mountainous areas inaccessible to humans.
From Yomiuri Shinbun (5/6/2012):
The research group headed by Takayuki Takahashi, vice president of Fukushima University (robotics) will fit wild Japanese monkeys with collars with dosimeters in order to study the radiation contamination in mountains and forests due to the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The experiment will start this month.
The purpose is to map the radiation levels to assist in decontamination.
The collar weighs 350 grams, and equipped with dosimeter and GPS. The collar will be fitted around the neck of a monkey to collect information on air radiation dosage and locations. Currently, the radiation levels in mountains and forests are measured from the air. It is hoped that by "deputizing" the work to the monkeys the radiation measurement in the deep mountain areas becomes possible.
Vice President Takahashi focused on the habit of monkeys to stay inside a territory as a group. If a monkey is fitted with dosimeter, it is possible to map the radiation levels within a certain territory. His group will catch female monkeys who are more likely to stay within the group and fit the collars. The collars will automatically come off after sending the signals, and they will be collected 2 weeks later for data analysis.
The experiment will be carried out in the southern Minami Soma City, which was inside "no-entry zone" until April 16 and has relatively high levels of radiation. As more monkeys become fitted with the collars, it is hoped that the wide-area mapping of radiation levels is possible.
Takahashi says, "Radioactive cesium in mountains and forests move with the flow of rainwater, and it is hard to fully understand the levels of contamination. By mapping the radiation levels this way, we hope to use it to protect wild life.
ICRP recommends that the radiation work be done under full understanding of the risks and full agreement among participants. Even though the communication between the species is not yet possible, I hope the monkeys will be rewarded with some contamination-free food.
Some of my Japanese twitter followers live in Fukushima Prefecture. One of them retweeted my tweet linking the article with his/her comment, "They can borrow my cat for radiation monitoring in the urban area." He/she lives in Fukushima City. The way he/she said it was resigned, slightly sarcastic maybe, and humorous. Sense of humor is a good thing to have, but I hope that person lives in a lower radiation area.
But where were these researchers last year? They could have done this last year. The only study on wild life last year in Fukushima was the study on birds in Fukushima by Professor Mousseau of University of South Carolina, and that result wasn't disclosed until February this year.