a) Non-invasive survey techniques - setup of a motion sensitive camera.
Traditionally, fauna surveying has involved laying out a variety of traps to record an inventory of ground dwelling amphibian, reptilian and mammalian species. Typically, designs included pitfall traps, small and large cage traps and drift fences. One drawback with this design is the time and cost involved in establishing, checking (daily) and maintaining these traps during the survey. Another drawback is the impact of trapping on the welfare of fauna. This is addressed to some extent by animal ethics and regulatory licensing requiring that all cage and box traps be cleared within two hours of sunrise. The trend towards non-invasive survey equipment like motion sensitive cameras and acoustic recording devices to record calls for bats and birds offers a solution to these issues.
Clear advantages of non-invasive technology in comparison to standard traps are the reduction in labour cost and the increase in survey effort and spatial coverage in comparison to standard traps. Spatial coverage and sampling intensity is improving with each year as the costs of the technology declines, allowing more units to be incorporated in surveys.
Another fundamental advantage of non-invasive methods is that they do not place any stress on individuals. This also allows surveys to be conducted at any time of the year, including when the potential disturbance to breeding animals or females with young could be an issue.
Animal welfare concerns are especially pertinent for target species of conservation significance, such as those listed under federal and state legislation. Recently the federal Department of the Environment released the revised referral guidelines for the endangered northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus). One of the key changes to these guidelines was the increasing reference to, and use of, motion sensitive cameras in detection surveys. This is just one example of where the regulator is now embracing new technology for fauna surveys.
The use of non-invasive, passive techniques for fauna surveys and monitoring will only increase in the coming years. In addition to fixed cameras and acoustic sensors, UAVs are increasingly being used as a platform to rapidly survey some species across large areas. And, with rapid advances in data processing and management technologies, including the advent of pattern recognition software, the problem of handling large datasets is becoming a thing of the past.
Astron’s fauna team implements non-invasive techniques whenever the opportunity arises. Our team has been using motion sensitive cameras and acoustic methods for many years and maintain a close awareness on developing technologies. Astron scientists are also at the forefront of developing new technology in this field.
|b) A more traditional fauna trap - a wire mesh cage trap.|