Big win for endangered wildlife project

L: Banded Hare-wallaby. Picture: Brad Leue/Australian Wildlife Conservancy, R: Rufous Hare-wallaby. Picture: Joey Clarke/Australian Wildlife Conservancy
L: Banded Hare-wallaby. Picture: Brad Leue/Australian Wildlife Conservancy, R: Rufous Hare-wallaby. Picture: Joey Clarke/Australian Wildlife Conservancy

THE first use of drones for a conservation project in WA has yielded successful results in tracking endangered animals.

Drones are being used to track endangered wildlife which was reintroduced to Dirk Hartog Island National park in the past two years.

Scientists can now track multiple animals in real time from the air as compared to only one animal at a time when tracking manually on the ground.

The drones allow scientists to search difficult terrain and large areas safer and quicker than before.

Banded Hare-wallaby. Picture: Brad Leue/Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Environment minister Stephen Dawson said the use of drones was an absolute game changer for conservation in remote parts of WA.

“By monitoring multiple mammals simultaneously, scientists on Dirk Hartog Island can work more quickly and efficiently to help measure the success of reintroducing endangered wildlife,” he said.

“This gives them more time to focus their efforts on the Return to 1616 ecological restoration program, which has already eradicated the island’s feral cats, sheep and goats.”

A small population of banded and rufous hare-wallabies was reintroduced to the island under the Return to 1616 ecological restoration program in 2017.

Cliffs at Dirk Hartog Island.

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions introduced another 140 hare-wallabies from nearby Bernier and Dorre Islands and fitted them with radio collars to assess survivorship and movement last year.

They were monitored daily for 12 weeks using traditional on-ground tracking, but it proved time consuming and labour intensive.

Recent data collected using the drones suggests the reintroduction program has been a success.

Collars are removed once the wallabies are recaptured and all have appeared to be in good condition, including all females having joeys in their pouch or at-foot.

Mr Dawson said 28 wallaby offsprings have been recorded since the first wallabies were released onto the island in 2017.

“The national park is now a refuge for some of our most iconic threatened species such as woylies, dibblers, chuditch, boodies, and banded and rufous hare-wallabies,” he said.

The restoration project is funded by the Gorgon Barrow Island Net Conservation Benefits Fund and DBCA.

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