Category: Recent Activities

Aerial Surveys to estimate populations of Camels, Kangaroos, Horses…Angas Downs, NT

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By , August 4, 2010 1:30 pm

Australian Wildlife Services successfully completed aerial surveys of the Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area and surrounding lands in June 2010 and August 2011. The surveys were flown by Dr George Wilson using standard procedures.  IPA Rangers and Jennifer Smits (AWS) counted animals seen at low level and 200m on either side of the aircraft. Species targeted /observed included camels, kangaroos, horses and cattle.

These studies are vital to understanding populations of kangaroos and pressures from camel and horse populations on the property and hence native wildlife.  In 2010, we found there are about 3000 red kangaroos on the station, plus 500 camels and 150 horses. Using mapping program ArcGis, observations were interpolated to form maps showing spatial variability (animals/km2).

Angas Downs Aerial Survey Report (915 downloads)

Using kangaroos adaptations to produce low-emission meat

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By , July 15, 2010 9:52 am

Kangaroos are adapted to Australia’s variable climate and are abundant in rangelands where cattle and sheep are raised. However landholders rarely benefit from kangaroos on their lands or play a role in their management. An exception is a Cooperative of graziers in Queensland, established in 2009 with Landcare support.

The Cooperative seeks to increase the value of kangaroo products and to address kangaroos’ free ranging behaviour by enabling collaboration in their management across properties. Cooperative members are following trends throughout the world, where the value of native species is available to landholders and the result is wider conservation and biodiversity benefits.

Methane from cattle and sheep is 11% of Australia’s total GHG. Kangaroos, on the other hand, produce negligible amounts of methane. Farmers have few options to reduce livestock GHG emissions.  An article in New Tork Times of 13 July 2010 described how researchers are trying to make cattle digestion more like kangaroos. It is not working however and the alternative of making greater use of kangaroos themseves to produce low emission meat  is one of the objectives of the Cooperative.

On the rangelands where kangaroo harvesting currently occurs, reducing cattle and sheep populations and increasing the kangaroo population to 175 million would produce the same amount of meat, and lower Australia’s GHG by 16 megatonnes, or 3% of Australia’s emissions. The potential carbon savings and biodiversity benefits could also be sold on in the carbon markets – voluntary or compliance, or reduce penalties when a price is placed on carbon emissions. See full paper in Conservation Letters and at this link for details of the analysis.

The Cooperative is developing the mechanisms and processes which could allow these options to be taken up. While a broadscale changeover from beef and sheep to kangaroos on the rangelands is unlikely, even in the long term, greater use of kangaroos is an option that warrants further investigation as means of landholders reducing emission and adapting to climate change.

Notwithstanding the potential benefits and the enthusiasm of catchment management agencies for the Cooperative, the project is languishing for lack of further funding support, including a re-estimation of the methane production by kangaroos.

When livestock are included in Australia’s carbon pricing mechanisms, the costs of kangaroo emissions will be significantly cheaper than those for cattle and sheep, perhaps providing the incentive for farmers to switch to kangaroos.

Kangaroos and Greenhouse gases (1058 downloads)

Potential investors in the Cooperative are invited to contact AWS to discuss the opportunity.

Cybertracker on Angas Downs

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By , June 26, 2010 10:20 am

Cybertracker is software built for field monitoring and data capture that enables non-literate Indigenous trackers to collect spatial data such as wildlife tracking, location of environmental and infrastructure damage, feral animal control and cultural and historical sites. Observations can be entered with simple lists tailored using relevant information fields and species lists. It is used widely across Indigenous Ranger groups in Australia.

Australian Wildlife Services currently facilitate a Cybertracker program on Angas Downs, where the Angas Downs Indigenous Rangers implement wildlife and other information tracking using a TDS Nomad. The aims of implementing Cybertracker on Angas Downs IPA are to:

  • involve the Rangers in monitoring native and feral species on Angas Downs, including kuka (game) species
  • progress involvement in sustainable wildlife management
  • combine Indigenous knowledge with science to monitor environmental factors.

Australian Wildlife Services are able to tailor the Cybertracker program to suit any GPS unit containing Windows Mobile software for any purpose or area. See

Australian Wildlife Services GIS Capabilities

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By , June 25, 2010 11:52 am

Australian Wildlife Services staff have a range of GIS and mapping capabilities including use of products ArcInfo, MapInfo, Manifold and Cybertracker.

GIS Services Available

  • Spatial data capture, analysis and management
  • Professional spatial representation of remotely sensed and ground truthed data to meet client objectives
  • Map delineation, digitisation, georeferencing of ground-truthed data
  • Analysis of remotely sensed data for classification, mapping and evaluation/monitoring of environmental factors
    (vegetation, landuse, fire etc)
  • Boolean logic; multi evaluation criteria and objective assessments and models to support decision-making.

Examples of spatial analysis projects:

  • Wildlife population and biodiversity density assessment analysis and mapping
  • Vegetation classification, analysis and thematic mapping
  • Cultural and management data capture
  • Soil mapping, water resource mapping
  • Development of flight lines for aerial surveys and conduct of aerial surveys.

For map examples and more information download AWS’s GIS Capabilities:

AWS GIS Capability (1038 downloads)

Survey and fieldwork at Angas Downs

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By , May 28, 2010 4:32 pm

AWS has conducted five field trips to Angas Downs in the last year. Activities involved: training Indigenous Anangu Rangers to track and survey native animals, birds and sand tracks, landscape health assessment techniques such as Landscape Function Analysis, installation and monitoring of photo points and water quality monitoring. Aerial surveys for kangaroo and camel populations were conducted in June 2010 and pitfall trapping for smaller animals and reptiles is planned to occur later in 2010. Australian Wildlife Services understands the advantage of combining science and traditional knowledge to monitor and protect the landscape and wildlife. Listening to what Indigenous people want from their landscape is vital to this. A report summarising field work completed in 2009 has been compiled. Download the 2009 Angas Downs monitoring report Angas Downs Monitoring 2009 (1067 downloads)

See also Angas Downs Cybertracker, Reptile Surveys, LFA and Soil Carbon.

Tourism opportunities for Indigenous Communities in central Australia, Angas Downs

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By , May 28, 2010 4:26 pm

AWS has been providing advice and support in development of small scale, tourism ventures on Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) by members of the Imanpa community who own the property. Angas Downs is on the main road to Uluri National Park and Watarrka National Park and has many thousands of visitors cross it each week.

AWS has produced a set of posters to be displayed in the Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse on the Lasseter Hwy. They detail the IPA and management, the rich natural resources, ranger works, tourism enterprises, and pastoral and aboriginal histories. This resource provides information to tourists and local Anangu people from Imanpa about Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area.

Led by members of the Imanpa community, AWS has helped coordinate a few trial tour runs through the property including Rotary groups interested in culture, education and philanthropic activities overseas University Students interested in environmental and wildlife studies.
AWS particpated in a workshop called ‘Stepping Stones’ at the Imanpa community in May 2010 to help develop tourism on Angas Downs along the lines of tag along 4WD cultural/historical tours and student groups, using a similar structure to Anangu Tours at Uluru.

More details of Angas Downs IPA in Angas Downs IPA Plan of Management (1008 downloads)

Biodiversity Offsetting Recommendations: Endangered Yellow Box Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland

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By , May 28, 2010 4:23 pm

Australian Wildlife Services have recently been involved in providing sound revegetation and rehabilitation recommendations to offset disturbance of endangered Yellow Box Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland in the Googong Foreshores area (ACT/NSW). Rehabilitation and revegetation was to occur in an adjacent poor condition, cleared woodland area to the disturbance. There were three main limiting factors to successful development of good condition box woodland identified by AWS: overgrazing by eastern grey kangaroos, widespread occurrence of weed species including many noxious species, and the likelihood that soil seed stocks of native species were degraded. In order to allow the successful offset and development of good condition Grassy Yellow Box Red Gum Woodland, a scope of works was provided. Management actions recommended included construction of a kangaroo deterrent fence, a targeted and robust weed control program and direct seeding of target tree, shrub and ground cover species. Works are to be commenced later in 2010.

Indigenous wildlife management – scientific research support

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By , May 20, 2010 11:34 am

In an opinion piece in the Journal Wildlife Research published in May 2010 AWS outlines how science could play a greater role in ensuring that Indigenous wildlife harvesting is sustainable. The paper discusses the role of Indigenous wildlife use in helping to address community health and employment challenges facing Indigenous Australians in remote and rural areas.
An abstract is available on the CSIRO website at   The full paper is available from our downloads – Indigenous wildlife management in Australia to enable sustainable use (599 downloads)

We are anticipate that the paper will lead to positive outcomes for Indigenous wildlife managers and a re-distribution of investments to what we hear Indigenous people saying is a high priority.

Camels and Greenhouse Gases

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By , February 8, 2010 10:21 am

A story on the front page of  The Australian on 8 February referred to AWS. It discusses methane emissions from camels and cars and follows a request by John Cobb MP to the Parliamentary Library to do an estimate. The Australian journalist sought comment from Sen Wong’s office and was presented with a much lower figure.  The journalist then asked AWS  for an independent estimate.

AWS makes the point that the issue is much more complicated than a simple comparison of cars and camels and that calculations contain many doubtful assumptions, including extrapolating the diet of domestic camels to wild camels.  Advocates of  ‘direct action’ using greenhouse gas reduction as a justification, need to consider the emissions produced by control. (This may be where the discrepancy between Sen Wong’s office and the Library comes in)

Detailed planning and consideration has been under way for some time in regard to the camel management. Advocates of ‘direct action’ need, at the very least to consider

  • dialogue and agreement with landholders, noting that most of the camels are on Aboriginal land
  • a long-term strategy that would address the return of camels which will result from an inability to remove them all
  • the ecological consequences of leaving large numbers of carcasses in the landscape – assuming direct action means helicopter gunships
  • the presentational problems which aerial shooting presents – (even though it can be done relatively humanely)
  • a market based solution, for example subsidised camel capture, mobile abattoirs, including  through Indigenous owned businesses?

In addition more research is needed on GHG gas emissions from animals not under the Kyoto protocol. DAFF and MLA are spending $28m on projects to make cattle more like kangaroos, including introducing kangaroo gut microorganisms into cattle. A modest investment in kangaroos (and camels) would seem to be a complementary investment worth the risk.

Methane emissions from animals

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By , January 14, 2010 12:13 pm

An article in The Australian recently revisted AWS  interest in the potential of kangaroos as producers of low emission meat compart to other species. It contained a table with an incorrect legend that had been inserted by a sub-editor.  The correct table and legend follows:

Emissions from animals

Animal No. Animals 1999 Enteric methane (CH4 Gg/yr) Enteric methane
(CO2e Gg/yr)
Enteric methane/head
(CO2e tonnes/animal/yr)
1999 Data from Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Only domesticated animals counted, average of State values
Dairy cattle 3141200 339.74 7134.54 2.27
Beef – pasture 23291900 1739.90 36537.90 1.57
Beef – feedlot 558100 41.69 875.49 1.57
Buffalo 8600 0.47 9.87 1.15
Sheep 116800400 773.08 16234.68 0.14
Goats 201700 1.01 21.21 0.11
Cattle and Llamas 1500 0.07 1.47 0.98
Horses 220300 3.96 83.16 0.38
Donkeys/mules 200 0.00 0.00 0.00
Pigs 2626600 2.88 60.48 0.02
Poultry 88694800 0.00 0.00 0.00
Deer 3200 0.03 0.63 0.20
Ostriches/emus 147900 1.58 33.18 0.22
Other 126700 0.63 13.23 0.10
2005 Data from National Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Only domesticated animals were counted, average of State values
Dairy cattle 3058554 347.73 7302.26 2.39
Beef 23224139 1847.23 38791.80 1.67
Beef – feedlot 1318089 101.61 2133.86 1.62
Sheep 101124878 681.45 14310.48 0.14
Goats 461491 2.31 48.46 0.11
Horses 221043 3.98 83.55 0.38
Deer 59469 0.64 13.36 0.22
Buffalo 6207 0.34 7.17 1.16
Donkeys/Mules 289 0.00 0.06 0.21
Emus/Ostriches 73788 0.37 7.75 0.11
Alpacas 2066 0.02 0.43 0.21
Camels 1846 0.08 1.78 0.97
Poultry 78187040 0.00 0.00 0.00
Pigs 2537859 3.69 77.43 0.03


Kangaroos 34000000[1] 0.003[2]

[1] The average number of kangaroos from 2001 to 2006) in the selected commercial kangaroo harvest area (Department of the Environment 2007).

[2] Kempton, T.J., Murray R.M., Leng R.A. (1976) Methane production and digestibility measurements in the grey kangaroos and sheep. Aust J Biol Sci 29, 209–214.