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Beyond the Bale : June 2018
WILD DOG ALERT TO PROVIDE WOOLGROWERS WITH ‘FIRST STRIKE’ CAPABILITY Ground-breaking research and use of innovative technology is being developed to help woolgrowers protect their flocks from wild dog attacks thanks to co-investment from AWI and their partners. Using an automated on-property camera trap device that identifies wild dogs, the Wild Dog Alert system will notify a woolgrower of a wild dog’s presence in real-time, to enable the woolgrower to act early and proactively. “I t’s the terrible feeling of being defenceless, the not knowing if wild dogs are around the property, the not knowing when they might attack the flock.” This is a familiar comment from woolgrowers and other sheep producers in areas affected by wild dogs – and it is a demonstration of how wild dogs can affect the emotional well-being of farmers as well as their financial bottom line. However, the development of a prototype new tool is well under way that aims to firmly place woolgrowers and other land managers on the front foot to manage wild dogs. The Wild Dog Alert Node is a ‘camera trap’ with advanced computer software, capable of satellite communication, that can visually identify wild dogs and then send a real-time alert to a landholder’s mobile phone or other device. It will therefore enable landholders to receive immediate information about the location of individual wild dogs and allow the landholders (and cooperating landholders and wild dog controllers in the local area) to take instant action to disrupt and discourage wild dog attacks. The system will also provide wild dog control groups with an unprecedented opportunity to monitor wild dog activity and efficiently guide the development and review of strategic regional wild dog management plans. “Often, wild dog control has necessarily been reactive and expensive, with woolgrowers and contractors effectively forced to ‘chase’ dogs after sheep have been maimed and killed,” said AWI Program Manager Vertebrate Pests, Ian Evans. “In chronic cases this can go on for weeks, months or even years, taking a heavy toll on enterprises, families and communities. “But if sheep producers could reliably detect dogs before they attack, at any hour and at even the most distant locations of their property, then there could be an opportunity to thwart a dog attack. “Early warning technology could therefore allow woolgrowers to take the initiative back from the dogs and allow growers to protect their stock. “There are also more strategic benefits of using this new system, such as woolgrowers and other land managers following wild dog movements to help in the planning of more effective bait campaigns and measurement of their effectiveness.” DEVELOPING WILD DOG ALERT The development of the Wild Dog Alert system is being undertaken by researchers at the University of New England (UNE) and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) with support from AWI along with the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources and Meat & Livestock Australia, through the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions. The aim is for the research project to build and deliver a prototype Wild Dog Alert Node by June next year, which if successful will then be followed by a commercialisation process. Researcher Paul Meek of NSW DPI and UNE said Wild Dog Alert will bring together significant developments in automated recognition technology and remote satellite communication. “Our initial field evaluations confirmed that using current off-the-shelf technology to detect, capture, identify and transmit image data as a foundation for the Wild Dog Alert was inadequate and did not meet the team’s technological expectations or requirements for a robust and reliable real-time alert system,” Paul said. The prototype Wild Dog Alert camera trap device under development. PHOTO: Heath Milne 40 ON FARM
In the Shops - September 2018