Introduced species have decimated some native wildlife populations to the brink of extinction, particularly feral cats who become unnatural predators but also rabbits which compete for food and water. One such native mammal suffering this plight is the Mala, or rufus hare-wallaby. With wild populations drastically reduced to only large scale man built enclosures, it is critical that monitoring of these enclosures is performed to track not only the integrity of the enclosure, but also population counts of both the Mala and rabbits.
Inside Kata Tjuta national park, in the shadows of Uluru, a large 170 Ha area has been fenced off forming a feral proof (cat, dog, fox) proof enclosure. Approximately 30 Mala were introduced into this habitat in 2005 with an ongoing population maintained.
How we did it:
Pest Detection and Population Count
V-TOL Aerospace’s night operations CASA instrument, combined with our Goshawk aircraft, our highly trained RPAS pilots performed surveys from dusk to dawn. Fitted with a high resolution, high frame rate thermal camera, the enclosure and immediate surrounds was surveyed each night enabling repeatable population tracks, population activity data, as well as location and proximity to the fence of pest species.
By using our long range aircraft, the enclosure can be repeatedly surveyed with great accuracy, while also reducing personnel risks associated with night time surveys. This allows for rapid broad scale population estimates which can be critical in establishing not only for ongoing progress tracking, but also re-stocking after natural events such as flooding or fire.
Using V-TOL Aerospace’s Hornet Aircraft, 3D assessments of infrastructure were also performed, these included water assets, buildings, and local gas infrastructure. Furthermore, the Goshawk was fitted during the day with high resolution optical sensors, enabling long range fence line and road inspections.
Like the population mapping infrastructure assessments enables conservationists to focus efforts where needed, enabling broad acre asset security is maintained, as well as quickly enabling identification of faults such as fence damage, pest intrusion, infrastructure maintenance issues and more.
Fire Load Assessments
Using the Goshawk aircraft fitted with high resolution optical sensors, V-TOL completed surveys of the Mala enclosure and surrounding areas, showing vegetation levels and potential fire loads, as well as scars from previous fires and mapping the subsequent re-growth progress.
This Fire Load Assessment is critical in ensuring the survival of endangered species. It ensures that any wildfires are contained and reduced in severity, as well as promoting new growth.