It's been nine months after the tsunami and earthquake destroyed the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and still no one knows how bad the radioactive contamination is. Radiation levels are expected to still be off the charts, and scientists at Fukushima University are planning to use wild monkeys to find out via specially outfitted collars.
The university plans to survey a wide area and varying elevations using 14 different groups of monkeys already living in the forests west of Minamisoma, a town just outside the exclusion zone, north of the power plant. The monkeys will be fitted with collars containing radiation meters and GPS monitors, to obtain and report back the most specific information possible. The collars will last up to two months and detach remotely after their work is done.
We can already feel the questions forming in your mind. "We've got robots, why the monkeys?"
The wild monkeys already inhabit the areas just north of the affected area and without prompting, cover areas well known to the scientific team. This makes the data they send back easier to interpret.
The monkeys also wander over many different elevations in this mountainous region, allowing the researchers the chance to collect data from the ground to the treetops. Until now, radiation readings have been done at higher elevations by helicopter, which may not translate to the radioactive reality on the ground.
The other reason to use monkeys is simple. They don't put humans at risk. Once the two-month study is completed they will simply continue life as normal in the forests.
Naturally, we expect your next question. "Irradiated monkeys running loose in the woods? Surely that can't be good…" Well, irradiated wildlife there is the new normal.
Discuss amongst yourselves.