Aerial survey to track kangaroo population celebrates 40 years

News article |

When the annual kangaroo count gets underway on 18 June, it will be 40 years since the survey’s inception in 1978, with data gathered capturing kangaroo population trends over four decades.

Posted 14 June 2018.

The annual counting of kangaroos is carried out from a low-flying aircraft and provides a snapshot of kangaroo populations across much of the South Australian landscape. The long-standing Department for Environment and Water (DEW) survey includes both pastoral and agricultural regions over an area of almost 230,000 square kilometres.

Starting to the east of the Flinders Ranges then across to the NSW border, the survey will then move south to between Burra and Renmark. In the second week the survey will cover areas north of Port Augusta, including pastoral lands either side of Lake Torrens and some areas of the Gawler Ranges. The final portion of the survey will include the Kingoonya and Coober Pedy areas.

Surveying indicates that kangaroo populations largely respond to climatic conditions, with populations generally decreasing during droughts and recovering in good conditions. DEW’s Kangaroo Management Operations Manager, Tom Gerschwitz, says the declining seasonal conditions over much of the pastoral area are impacting on the high numbers of kangaroos.

“This survey will continue to inform DEW about trends in kangaroo populations across the broader landscape,” Mr Gerschwitz said.

“Two trained observers sit in the rear of a Cessna 206 aircraft and scan the landscape, counting kangaroos in a 200m wide strip each side of the aircraft, surveying one square kilometre every 97 seconds.”

The survey will be conducted over three weeks and is due to be completed around 10 July (weather permitting).

“Community members should not be worried if they see a low-flying aircraft doing east-west transects across properties,” Mr Gerschwitz said.

“An aircraft flying low with streamers attached to its wing struts and following a seemingly unchanged flight path is an unusual sight but it is the most efficient way to gather data on kangaroo populations.”

The data will inform the setting of quotas within the commercial harvest area for kangaroos and aids in understanding the effect of environmental conditions on kangaroo numbers.

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