Cybertracker training with Budj Bim Rangers, Winda-mara Aboriginal Corp, SW Victoria

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By , April 16, 2012 3:13 pm
AWS have provided Cybertracker training to the Winda-mara Aboriginal Corporation's Budj Bim Rangers in Heywood, south-west Victoria. Cybertracker is an easy way of collecting field-based GPS data for nearly any purpose. The Working on Country (WoC) rangers (see environment.gov.au) got together and worked out what information they wanted to collect - then with help from AWS learnt about how to tailor the Cybertracker to be useful. The rangers have since been trialing the new Cybertracker in the field. They can collect data on a wide variety of topics including cultural and heritage site maintenance, weed and pest control and revegetation. The rangers aim to collect data that shows the great work they do for the environment and cultural maintenance under the Australian Government's Indigenous Protected Area, Working on Country and National Heritage Landscape programs.

 

Contact AWS Jenny Smits for more information researchofficer@awt.com.au. See also: Cybertracker on Angas Downs IPA Northern Territory.

Reptile trapping Angas Downs IPA — Late season March’12

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By , April 11, 2012 2:57 pm
AWS and Angas Downs rangers undertook late season reptile trapping on Angas Downs IPA in March '12 in order to better understand species occurrence and abundance throughout the year. Traps consisted of drift nets with combination of pitfall (buckets) and funnel traps. Results were surprising with many of the species caught in November 2011 no longer present, and new species not caught before now showing up in the landscape. New species not caught before on Angas Downs included the narrow banded sand swimmer Eremiascincus fasciolatus, the first live capture of a Yellow-faced Whipsnake Demansia psammophis (juvenile), Canegrass Dragon Diporiphora winneckei and Ctenotus brooksi. Species count for Angas Downs is now: 51 reptile species, 4 amphibians, 99 birds and 10 native mammals (including 1 bat). Encouragingly, species not seen since 2010 were trapped including Pale Knob-tailed Gecko Nephrurus laevissimus, Desert Banded Snake Simoselaps anomalus and Interior Blind Snake Ramphotyphlops endoterus. Interestingly, no small marsupials or mammals were captured during the period although remote IR photographic capture of Spinifex hopping mice and track evidence show they are still in the landscape. More trapping is planned for October-December 2012. For previous survey results visit click here and for species checklists click here.  

Indigenous Heritage Project – Rotary support

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By , March 28, 2012 7:39 pm
AWS is coordinating a survey of Angas Downs to locate Indigenous Heritage.  

Australian Wildlife Services GIS, Spatial Information & Mapping Capabilities

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By , February 3, 2012 2:05 pm
AWS has full GIS capability in house using ArcGIS (ArcMap, ArcInfo), Mapinfo, Manifold. We interface these programs with Google Earth for easy customer viewing and use. Our mapping and GIS work ranges from digitizing hand drawn maps, complex spatial model development and producing spatial wildlife density estimates. AWS also works with Cadastral and Topographic digital databases, Landsat and SPOT imagery and can provide vegetation and fire mapping services. And our GIS analyst is reasonably priced. angas-downs-topography

GIS Services Available

  • Spatial data capture, analysis and management
  • Cadastral and topographic database and map production
  • Digital elevation models
  • Map delineation and digitization
  • Georeferencing
  • Analysis of remotely sensed data for classification, mapping and evaluation/monitoring of environmental factors (vegetation, landuse, fire etc)
  • Spatial modelling to support decision-making
  • Landsat TM and ETM analysis.

Examples of spatial analysis projects:

  • Wildlife population and biodiversity density assessment analysis and mapping
  • Digitizing hand drawn weed and weed survey maps for report publication
  • Vegetation classification, analysis and thematic mapping
  • Cultural and management data capture
  • Soil and geology mapping, water resource mapping
  • Proposed flight lines for aerial surveys.
For map examples and more information download AWS’s GIS Capabilities  AWS GIS Capability (923 downloads)

Introducing (more) large herbivores to Australia?

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By , February 2, 2012 9:00 am
In a Comment in Nature: 'Introduce large mammals and increase hunting pressure', David Bowman is proposing a more holistic approach to managing Australia's troubled ecosystem. He advocates introducing large mammals such as elephants, rhinoceros and even Komodo dragons to help consume flammable grasses and control feral-animal populations. At the same time, he recommends employing Aboriginal hunters who could help to control feral-animal populations and restore the traditional practice of patch burning. AWS  believes this proposal is fundementally flawed. For one, it over looks that the Australian climate and hence the productivity of the environment is intrinsically one of boom and bust on a massive scale. How would he feed and water these large animals during the recurring busts? They would starve and trash the landscape as they starved. The impact of camels cattle and buffalo during droughts is already very damaging. We are all in favour of more science to actively managing landscapes, and support for Aboriginal traditional practice and Aboriginal land managers to increase preferred species. How about more kangaroos to eat the grasses?  They don't produce methane, are adapted to the consequences of climate variability by controlling their breeding, and they are already here. New Scientist refers to AWS views. 

Buffalo and Carbon Farming Opportunities

By , December 30, 2011 11:39 am
AWS has conducted a preliminary assessment of a buffalo and pig control project in Arnhem Land to determine if it is both feasible and cost-effective under the Australian Government Carbon Farming Initiative. We have determined it could generate significant revenues for landowners and the Indigenous Rangers conducting the project.Our analysis advocates that Indigenous Protected Area managers proceed with an emission reduction project. Removal of  buffalo could generate an income which would more than cover the costs of the control operation. Benefiting from subsequent carbon sequestration is more complex; monitoring and measurement are expensive and time consuming but the income is substantially larger. The proposed Australian Government Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund is dedicated to helping Indigenous communities enter the carbon market. Details of this program are not yet available and success in obtaining funds will take time. In the mean time Indigenous landholders have the option of proceeding with commercial investors. Doing so would enable the project to continue quickly but at a cost to the size of eventual returns for carbon units sold.

Superb Parrots Habitat Study

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By , December 30, 2011 11:08 am
AWS is investigating landscape use by the Superb Parrot in the Boorowa-Rugby region, NSW. For more information contact researchofficer@awt.com.au.    

ABC Landline story on kangaroo cooperative

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By , October 31, 2011 2:46 pm
The Maranoa Kangaroo Harvesters and Growers Cooperative Ltd featured in an ABC TV Landline story on the issues constraining landholders from converting a liability into an asset and benefiting from the kangaroos on their properties. AWS has been working with the Cooperative to establish a regional approach across property boundaries to deliver more sustainable land management, biodiversity conservation and earning carbon and biodiversity credits.  

Field trip to South Africa

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By , October 19, 2011 9:16 am
Jennifer Smits, George Wilson and Lyn Wilson  spent three weeks in South Africa from 24 September 2011 learning from South African experiences and techniques of wildlife management and tourism. They were joined in the second week by a delegation of Anangu Rangers from Angas Downs We were privileged to participate in the  recovery of a White Rhinoceros and calf which had been wounded by poachers attempting to remove its horn. The horn is used as a traditional (alternative) medicine in Vietnam and brings extremely high prices on the black market. Wildlife Vet Dr Cobus Raath led a team of veterinary volunteers and students to Nkomazi Game Reserve to catch and treat the Rhino. We helped with the procedure which was a great experience. Two weeks later the Rhino was recovering well. When the same poachers  attempted to take another rhino, they were killed in a shootout with Police in neighbouring Swaziland. Later in the day George Wilson had the opportunity to use his darting skills to treat a sick giraffe in the game reserve.

AWS also sampled the hospitality of the South African tourism industry by staying at the Ngala  Safari camp near Kruger National Park - Orpen gate.. High-end tourism for wildlife viewing is certainly an industry that Australia could emulate and could be a key for tourism based Indigenous Community Development. See &Beyond website for their role in conversation and community projects in Africa and other developing nations.

During our stay, George Wilson was invited to participate in aerial spotting of wildlife over Kruger National Park. For more than two hours he flew  at low level in a microlight aircraft with Park Ranger Steven Whitfield. Their mission was to find a a rhino that had been injured in a fire and and to count sable antelope calves as part of a program to monitor their reproductive success.

Angas Downs Rangers in South Africa

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By , October 18, 2011 2:40 pm
Angas Downs Rangers visited South Africa in October 2011 on a training and educational trip of a lifetime. The itinerary included visits to national parks and private game reserves. Topics covered
  • intensive wildlife management and techniques for increasing wildlife numbers, and catching and moving of wild animals
  •  importance of the dollar value of animals in both national parks and private game reserves to wildlife conservation
  • Indigenous guiding  and game viewing, tourism and accommodation support
  • role of fire and vegetation management conservation of wildlife and land management
The Rangers, who had never left Australia before, visited staff in Kruger and Mokala National Parks, and the South African National Parks Headquarters in Kimberley, the South Africa Wildlife College where they met students from all over Africa studying Wildlife Management and Conservation. Opportunities for collaboration and exchange are being explored. The rangers were also lucky to view sustainable Springbok meat harvesting practices on private game reserves and see the contribution that hunting, game trading and ecotourism were making to sustaining conservation.
The Rangers nearly had celebrity status at the International Wildlife Ranching Symposium, South Africa in Kimberley with everyone wanting to have a photo with them. Many people came to the talk they presented on the Indigenous Protected Area and Working on Country programs and Angas Downs. A summary of the events at the Symposium are shown here. And on the very last day, the Rangers were extremely lucky to experience traditional dance and culture of the San from the !Xun and Khwedam speaking tribes (relocated mainly from Angola)  in the satellite community Platfontein near Kimberley. Despite pressing poverty, the community is able to continue to practice and teach their culture thanks to the "Footprints of the San program" run by the San Institute and supported by the South African Government. The Rangers were impressed with the very colourful traditional dress and involvement of what seemed the whole community. The clapping sticks used by the San and red paint were also very similar to that used traditionally by Aboriginals  in Central Australia. The Footprints of the San program will eventually provide an exciting and unique tourism experience for people visiting South Africa and hopefully opportunity for economic development and employment within the community. A video of the traditional dance and song will be uploaded shortly.
Much was learnt from the South African  wildlife conservation, ecotourism and community development  programs. There were many parallels between community issues in South Africa and in Central Australia. The Rangers have taken these experiences and lessons back to their family and community in central Australia. The trip to South Africa would not have occured were it not for kind donations of the Mutitjulu Foundation, Qantas, SEWPAC and Rotary Club of Canberra Burley Griffin. Thank you to these sponsors - the trip was a huge success.