Friday, September 30, 2022

How tourist cameras are helping scientists uncover wildlife mysteries

Is adventure tourism, with a tinge of science, the new way of engaging travellers?

By tracking echidna poo, trapping mosquitoes or counting face masks on beaches, citizen science is helping boost scientific records and data.

But it is not just for the locals. A new style of tourism encourages people to indulge themselves in the landscape and wildlife while visiting places, rather than just taking in the sights.

In South Australia, Kangaroo Island is known for its unique and abundant wildlife.

But 25,000 koalas and 50,000 farm animals perished in the deadly Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020.

Two people also lost their lives.

Rona Horbelt has been rescuing native orphaned animals at her Wildlife Land Trust sanctuary for the past decade. He said that the fire tested him astray.

Smiling woman standing in the meadow holding a kangaroo in a blanket.
Rona Horbelt and Kangaroo Choco rescued in Kangaroo Island, South Africa.,ABC Movin to the Country: Tony Hill,

“We were in the fire arena the whole time and you saw horrible things, but we didn’t pay attention to that at all,” she said.

“I don’t have a picture. We focused on the positive things.

“We focused on live animals, and we had about … 150 to 200 kangaroos in the sanctuary at the time, where it was really a sanctuary.”

tourism that helps wildlife

Ms Horbelt and her partner Phil Smith saw an opportunity to give back to animals not only through rehabilitation but also through research and conservation.

He began a seafaring expedition, taking small group boat trips to the far north-west coast of Kangaroo Island to introduce people to the astonishing diversity of animals, landscape and geology.

Men holding hands around woman, both wearing matching T-shirts are smiling.
Rona Horbelt and Phil Smith are partners in business and in life.,ABC Movin to the Country: Tony Hill,

Tourists, along with active citizen scientists, contribute to data monitoring and collection programs by taking photos, noting places and animals, and making new discoveries.

Amazingly, not much was known about dolphins, said Tony Bartram, coordinator of Kangaroo Island Dolphin Watch.

“People think we know a lot, because dolphins are on T-shirts, in movies, on TV, everyone else, but they’re actually listed as lacking data,” he said.

“It’s incredibly important to get baseline data about all species of dolphins.”

Mr Bartram said this area of ​​Kangaroo Island is an ideal location to conduct these trips.

Two women standing outside in a rural setting, leaning on a fence, smiling.
Halina Baczkowski meets Rona Horbelt on Movin to the Country.,ABC Movin to the Country: Tony Hill,

“It’s not like it is in Queensland. In South Australia, the marine environment is largely unexplored,” he said.

Mr. Bartram had high hopes for this project.

“It’s important to us because it gives us more data flow, but it also means we’re reaching places we haven’t been able to reach before,” he said.

“The research we’ve done so far has limits on us and how far we travel, not on dolphins.”

It is not just dolphins that tourists get to see. They have also seen whales and osprey that were not previously thought to live in the area.

The story of the whale on display outside the sea.
One of the many surprising whale flukes captured off the coast of Kangaroo Island on Rona’s tours.,ABC Movin to the Country: John Natolik,

Watching a whale’s tail, known as a fluke, is a money shot. The unique markings help identify the whale.

According to Ms. Horbelt, the more cameras the better.

“The data they collect is important. It’s not easy to get a glimpse of a whale or a fin because the animals move so quickly,” she said.

‘Bloody labor’ pays off

Another citizen scientist, Sue Holman, has documented sea life around the island for eight years and was amazed at the data coming back from tourism.

“Only seven are recorded [osprey] Nests around the island and they didn’t believe there was no one to nest on that end of the north coast,” she said.

“It’s new data. It’s cutting edge stuff that we really want to show … there’s nests out there that nobody knows about.”

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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