School kids use app to protect wildlife

Tuesday, 21 September, 2021

School kids use app to protect wildlife

School students from Kangaroo Island are using an app to help protect bushfire-impacted birds.

Home to more than 260 native birds, with 17 found only on the island, BirdLife Australia estimates some species, such as the Kangaroo Island Southern Emu-wren, Kangaroo Island Whipbird and Western Bassian Thrush, lost up to 80% of their habitat during the Black Summer Fires.

But with $50,000 funding support from Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants, BirdLife Australia aims to educate and engage local schools, along with private landholders and community group volunteers, in monitoring these birds, using BirdLife Australia’s mobile phone app, Birdata.

The app allows Birdlife Australia to collaboratively and scientifically collect data used to gain knowledge about Australian birds in conservation and management of species and their habitats. As part of an education program, students learn about the birds unique to the island and how to identity them.

“These cryptic birds were flagged as a high priority due to significant habitat loss, their sedentary nature and significantly lower ability to disperse during the fires, all of which have fragmented their populations,” said Janelle Thomas, BirdLife Australia’s Preventing Extinctions Project Coordinator.

“Given the limited bird survey data for Kangaroo Island, ongoing surveys will be important to help assess the post-fire abundance and distribution of birds in the long term, particularly for those endemic and priority species. This will help improve our understanding of their response to bushfires and their capacity to recover, and inform conservation efforts to help secure their populations on Kangaroo Island.

“Involving the community in this work is vital, and with this funding from Landcare, we will develop resources to educate the island’s school children about the birds that are special to Kangaroo Island and what to look out for when they take part in surveys with our specially designed app, Birdata.

“The next generation will be the future custodians of Kangaroo Island, so we want them to be armed with the best knowledge and experience to protect the future of the special birds that also call it home,” Thomas said.

Funded by the Australian Government, the $14 million Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants are supporting projects in regions impacted by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019–20.

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