Aussie conservation group hires drones to monitor species

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, May 9, 2022
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SYDNEY, May 9 (Xinhua) -- A team of conservationists from Australian conservation group, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), have begun using remote control drones to track populations of native Australian wildlife.

Details of the new wildlife monitoring program, revealed to the public on Monday, showed how drones could add a new dimension to the way conservationists monitor endangered species in Australia.

Mahalia Booth-Remmers, AWC field ecologist, told Xinhua on Monday that their tests give proof of concept to a process that could be used for conservation across Australia.

"Using a thermal drone, you've got more likelihood of actually detecting the animal and getting a more accurate population estimate," said Booth-Remmers.

"Coming up with new and innovative ways of actually surveying for our wildlife, I think is really critical."

The team's initial test saw a human-operated drone fitted with a thermal camera fly over a 480-hectare breeding area in Molly Cliffs National Park in southwest New South Wales (NSW) five separate times.

The footage was sent back to researchers who were able to determine the population of bilbies, a native Australian marsupial, with similar accuracy to traditional population monitoring methods like live-trapping which for the same area took a team of researchers five nights out in the field.

Booth-Remmers said at this stage the largest limiting factor on drone capabilities was their battery life.

"At the moment, it's limited by the battery life, which is only 20 minutes. So, you can only cover a small area, that 480 hectares was a good size, any bigger than that... and it became really difficult."

Booth-Remmers said going forward the team would be looking to scale up operations and use the method on different species. Most recently the team took their fleet of drones to Scotia, a larger reserve in NSW's north.

"It'd be interesting to use it for smaller mammals like mice or those more intermediate like the woylies or the bettongs, just to see how effective it is for different sizes as well." Enditem

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