The burrowing owl population has been on a steep decline in California for decades. This is sad news for two big reasons: 1) Climate change will likely only make their plight worse, and 2) they are the cutest freaking animals on the planet (with the exception of a certain lonesome, one-eyed sea lion).

But this article isn’t about sad news! It’s about hope! And saving the lives of adorable prairie-dwelling puffballs! And teeny tiny backpacks! Conservationists at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research have outfitted the owls with GPS tracker backpacks, and are sending the owls off to school — I mean, into the wild.

Here’s Motherboard:

Conservationists said the dataloggers, which don’t impede the owls’ movement, are being used to monitor their burrowing around the state. Researchers are alarmed about their decreasing population and hope this data helps for future conservation efforts.

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Research coordinator Colleen Wisinski said in a statement that information collected “will be critical to scientific management of this species by adding to our understand of their habitat use and movements.”

We can only assume the conservationists dropped the little guys off in a Subaru Forester, gave them all nice pats on the owl knee, and waved goodbye while shouting, “Make good choices!” as they hopped over to join their fellow backpack-clad friends in the burrow. Ugh, conservationists can be so embarrassing.

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