Animal tracking

What is the animal tracking project?

The Alinytjara Wilurara (AW) animal tracking project involves survey work of native and non-native animals across the Maralinga Tjarutja and Mamungari Conservation Park to establish:

  • baseline data on the population, distribution and frequency of native and non-native species in the area
  • comparisons between distribution and abundance of animal species following exceptional rainfall conditions and in previous dry years.

How does it work?

On the basis of gait pattern and foot imprint and size, surveyed species include:

  • feral cats
  • foxes
  • dingoes
  • camels
  • rabbits
  • grey kangaroos
  • red kangaroos
  • echidna
  • hopping mice
  • other rodents and small dasyurids
  • emu
  • malleefowl
  • kipara (Australian bustard).

Monitoring sites have been selected based on their ease of access and good substrate surface for tracking, and include along the railway line toward Barton, to the west, east and south of Voakes Hill, along the Cook Rd and in the vicinity of Maralinga and Oak Valley.

Occurrences of native and introduced animal signs are recorded while traversing a 100x200 metre plot in a period of 30 minutes. Plots are spaced at least five kilometres apart. Presence or absence of animals is the primary variable considered. However, the amount of track and other signs, including scats and burrows, is also recorded.

What has been found?

Surveys of the distribution and abundance of native and introduced fauna were conducted in the AW region in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012 to provide baseline ecological information from which to compare future trends.

Data gathered since 2007 shows:

  • comparisons of distribution and relative abundance of trackable species over the survey years
  • local associations of certain species, such as dingo, fox and feral cat
  • an indication of the relationship between animal species and distance to water points.

Discussions have been had with the Maralinga Tjarutja community and the Friends of Great Victoria Desert volunteer group to help establish how on-going animal track surveys and monitoring can be best conducted in the future by the Oak Valley community.

The survey can also be adapted to systematically survey vegetation, including surveying for weed species. This has been very useful in recording the location of problematic buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) in the region.