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Xboxing kangaroos

Brad Purcell - Project Officer of the Kangaroo Management Project, Office of Environment and Heritage

Automated digital records have replaced pencils and paper as NSW Department of Primary Industries staff train Office of Environment and Heritage observers to use Xbox controllers and tablet devices to monitor kangaroo numbers from the air.

NSW DPI research scientist, Steven McLeod, said observations are now entered directly into portable computers, from which data can be downloaded immediately for analysis.

“Modern technology has delivered a huge leap forward in accuracy and efficiency compared with the old paper records from the 1970s and our air survey team have developed the training through Tocal College to support that technology,” Dr McLeod said.

“We’ve just finalised assessments for OEH staff who have completed the new techniques for aerial surveys of wildlife training at Fowlers Gap Research Station.

“Annual surveys in fixed wing aircraft cover more than 53 million hectares in western NSW, using technology which generates one of the world’s biggest data sets of its kind, using the best available data analysis methods.

“Aerial observers are using real time logging of geographically referenced locations to record numbers and locations for feral goats and kangaroos.

“These new techniques improve the reliability of population estimates for red, eastern and western grey kangaroos, which can be used to better arrive at sustainable harvest quotas.

“Large-scale data at this level also boosts our knowledge and management of feral goat distribution, abundance and impacts across central and western NSW.”

Managing feral goats and the commercial harvest of kangaroos relies on accurately monitoring the size of their populations.

NSW DPI staff from the Vertebrate Pest Research Unit at the Orange Agricultural Institute developed the course content based on the latest survey and statistical methods.

‘Techniques for aerial survey of wildlife training’ is a new Tocal College course, which contributes to three Certificate II and III units in Conservation and Land Management studies.

This story was first published in Leading Agriculture Issue 23.

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