In December 2020, Dr Dave Algar was awarded the National Froggatt Award for his contributions in eliminating feral cats from Dirk Hartog Island (DHI) in Western Australia. He was also recognised for his efforts in leading his team to develop the aptly named ERADICAT bait – which is now widely used for feral cat control.
At Wildlife Drones, we have been fortunate to witness the positive outcomes of Dr Algar’s work. Dirk Hartog Island was once overrun by feral cats, sheep and goats due to European settlement. As a result, 10 Australian native species disappeared from the Island’s fast-changing ecology.
Recognising the ecological significance of DHI as a safe-haven for these now critically-endangered and geographically unique species, project Return to 1616 is one of the world’s largest ecological restoration projects currently underway.
Since the removal of the last feral cat in 2016, the Western Australia Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (WA DBCA) have been slowly reintroducing native wildlife back to the Island. In 2019, Wildlife Drones were invited to trial our radio-tracking drone system on tracking recently released Banded and Rufous (Mala) Hare Wallabies.
The immense success of this reintroduction program very quickly became obvious during the trial when it was discovered that all female hare wallabies that were radio-tracked and recaptured to remove their tags had successfully bred and had either young in the pouch or at foot. Since then, the WA DBCA have been using our tracking technology to track and monitor Shark Bay Bandicoots which were reintroduced to the Island in 2020.
With Wildlife Drones, the researchers at the WA DBCA have been able to save significant time and effort in tracking the animals they release. In just a single flight, they are able to radio-track up to 40 animals simultaneously and rapidly cover large parts of the Island that would otherwise take hours to cover on foot. With this ability, they are able to better monitor the survival and wellbeing of the animals on the Island as more species are reintroduced.
It has been an amazing experience for Wildlife Drones to continue supporting the Dirk Hartog Island #Returnto1616 project and to be able to contribute to the restoration of this ecosystem in the absence of feral animals.