The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has labelled its latest project the world's largest satellite herd-tracking program, which it hopes will monitor 1,000 feral buffalo and unmanaged cattle roaming northern Australia from space.
The AU$4 million, 3.5 year project will see CSIRO partner with universities and private businesses to tag and track the bovine through the use of satellite GPS-tracking tags attached to the animals' ears to deliver real-time, geographically-accurate insights into herd density, accessibility, and transport costs.
The project aims to allow Indigenous communities across the region to monetise the "destructive pests", turning them into economic, environmental, and cultural opportunities, CSIRO said.
The organisation is also hoping to create a new "best practice" for managing large herds using space technology.
"Australia's burgeoning space industry is creating exciting new possibilities for innovative science and technology to solve our greatest challenges, like using satellites to manage our wide, open land in more culturally and environmentally sensitive ways," CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said.
"This unique partnership is a reminder that the new frontier of space is an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of our past, and work alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure that space-enabled technology is being put to best use to improve the land we all share."
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CSIRO and Charles Darwin University have developed the data management tools; James Cook University created the GPS-tracking ear tags; satellite company Kineis will provide access to its satellite fleet and technical expertise; and the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA) will drive efforts on the ground in partnership with Mimal Land Management Aboriginal Corporation, Aak Puul Ngangtam Ltd, and Normanby Land Management.
NAILSMA chief executive Ricky Archer expects that from using the information generated by the ear tags, rangers and land managers will gain access to more precise decision-making tools about where to focus efforts for reducing the impacts of buffalo and cattle grazing and eroding native flora and fauna.
"As our environment recovers, it will be more resilient in the face of fires, invasive plants, and climate change, and we'll be able to protect sites of cultural significance to Indigenous Australians," Archer said.