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Koalas' habitat makes them difficult to track, but heat-detecting drones could help


WASHINGTON (CIRCA via MOBIUS.LAB) — Koalas, the cute teddy bear lookalikes, are marsupials native to Australia. In less than a decade, koalas have had a population decline of 90 percent.

Wildlife researchers estimate that there are between 2,000 and 8,000 koalas in the wild. Monitoring the number of koalas in their habitat has proven difficult because of their complex environment; koalas eat eucalyptus leaves and live under canopies of eucalyptus trees in forests.

Traditional tracking methods, such as human spotters, GPS and dogs, are time-consuming, costly, and not 100-percent accurate.

In an effort to understand the koala population decline, Queensland University of Technology's School of Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences created a drone tracking system. The koala-tracking drones use an algorithm that locates koalas using heat detection. This non-invasive technology is cost-effective and able to survey such complex environments.

While this technology requires more fine-tuning for improved accuracy, drones could be the next great tool for animal researchers worldwide.

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