Tiny backpacks saving endangered birds

·1-min read

Tiny solar-powered, satellite backpacks are tracking one of Australia's rarest bird species.

Fifteen critically endangered plains-wanderers have been released into Oolambeyan National Park in the NSW Riverina, which was protected in perpetuity in 2002 due to its high conservation value in protecting critical habitat for the plains-wanderer.

The birds and their backpacks were released for only the second time in NSW as part of a conservation effort between the NSW, SA and Victorian governments.

Their new solar-powered backpacks can provide data for up to two years via satellite tracking.

Tracking of released birds has previously been limited by a 12-week backpack battery life, and they could only be tracked with transmitters in the field.

The 15 recently released birds were carefully selected from conservation breeding programs, with 11 coming from Taronga Western Plains Zoo in NSW, three from Monarto Safari Park in SA, and one from Werribee Open Range Zoo in Victoria.

"Plains-wanderers are a small, ground-dwelling bird that is particularly vulnerable to threats such as foxes and feral cats, and native grassland habitat loss.

"They're a critical part of the ecosystem because their presence or absence is an indicator of the health of their native habitat," NSW Environment Minister James Griffin said.

"These solar-backpack wearing plains-wanderers are paving the way for us to gather important data, which will ultimately help us improve our conservation efforts for wild populations into the future."

Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Action Lily D'Ambrosio said the second release of 15 plains-wanderers in NSW builds on the initial trial in Victoria last year.

South Australia Minister for Climate, Environment and Water Susan Close said collaboration is key to conservation.