Birdy backpacks proposed to fight the spread of avian influenza…
A new plan calls for scientists to attach tiny backpacks filled with sophisticated telemetry equipment to wild birds — with tape? staples? hot glue? — and track them with a system of chirping radio beacons and satellites, with the data fed into the tweety computers of ornithologists, ecologists, virologists, and epidemiologists in their nests around the world.
A just-completed international scientific conference called by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health concluded that although human activities such as poultry production and trade are principally responsible for spreading the disease, wild birds do play a role in transporting bird flu over long distances.
The $6.8 million FAO scheme calls for the capture of thousands of wild birds before they migrate, testing them for disease, and fitting the very luckiest of our feathered friends with magic backpacks, which weigh under 50 grams each. The backpacks — it had to be backpacks since birds don’t have arms and can’t carry luggage or anything — would indicate migrating birds’ exact whereabouts when they stop over for rest and recreation on their picaresque journeys.
And I would guess the freighted fliers would be stopping for R&R a little more often than their birdy buds.
Ground-based teams would then re-test the sample birds for disease and, in the case of a positive return — well, positive for the disease but surely negative for the bird — have a good idea of where the infection originated and where it might head next.
No mention was made if any of the funds will be allocated for psychological counseling, since clearly the backpack birds will be teased mercilessly and/or ostracized by their peers for their bizarre and ostentatious travel accessories.