A group of us were very privileged to be part of an interesting project recently at Tilligerry Habitat. This is just one step in many where various sections of the Hunter are being monitored for koala activity.
The koala survey crew from the Office of Environment and Heritage had arranged to bring their kit to work over the Tilligerry Habitat area.
The process is this – a drone with an infra-red camera sweeps the area and reports back with the location of possible koalas. The drone can only remain aloft for about 20 minutes before needing to have it’s batteries replaced. So the time available for the search is quite limited. In addition, the search needs to be done early in the morning. Searching can only be effective before the temperature rises above 10 degrees. This is because a koala gives a heat signature of only 15 degrees due to their thick fur, effectively, they only appear as a 15 degree “blob” to the infra red camera. So the higher the temperature the more difficult it is to pick them out. The operator can tell (mostly) the difference between a possum or other animals and a koala.
The drone operator works from a cherry picker allowing the operator, apparently, nearly always called “the drone guy”, 🙂 to have line of sight to the drone. Then a crew sets out and spotlights the area and tries to locate any more koalas from below while the drone continues searching.
Once daylight comes the crew tries to find the koalas pinpointed by the drone. The team managed to successfully find two koalas in their search today and found three on their preliminary search yesterday which was great for us. Other sites that have been monitored locally are Mambo Wetlands, Soldiers Point and Oyster Cove.
We thank Chadley Beranek and his colleagues for their help and wish them well on this project.