Kangaroo Research Using GPS Collars

Blackspot at Wanniassa HillsBlackspot the kangaroo at Waniassa Hills, ACT, Australia.Don Fletcher and Claire Wimpenny of the Conservation Planning and Research Unit in ACT, Australia, are researching the behaviour of kangaroos using GPS collars. Here’s a report on the research so far:

Australia´s capital city, Canberra, is home to thousands of eastern grey kangaroos. They dwell in the urban nature reserves and open space areas, often venturing into the suburban areas to feed at night.

Each year there are approximately 2000 motor vehicle collisions with kangaroos in the suburban area of Canberra, and the impacts of high numbers of kangaroos in nature reserves have led to kangaroo control programs. Understanding the movement behaviour of kangaroos in the urban environment is an important step in improving kangaroo population control strategies and methods to reduce motor vehicle collisions with kangaroos. The movements and home range of kangaroos in urban Canberra are being studied with Sirtrack GPS collars.

The data downloaded from the collars so far has revealed some very interesting behaviour. The most unexpected finding is that kangaroos are avoiding high speed major roads. Very few crossings of 80 and 100km/hr roads have been recorded. The rare occasions that the kangaroos do cross these busy roads are at night when the traffic is reduced.

Recently, data was downloaded from the collar of a male kangaroo that resides in the Mt Ainslie Nature Reserve and sometimes feeds on the lawns of the Australian War Memorial. The animation shows the locations of this kangaroo each month from November 2009 to October 2010. This kangaroo is showing an interesting pattern. He is spending periods of time in different areas of his range, and the area he utilises in some months does not overlap with the previous months. At this stage it is unclear whether this is a pattern common of all kangaroos, or if it is unique to this individual. As well as being an exciting behavioural discovery, this pattern also demonstrates the benefit of using GPS tracking technology. GPS collars have the ability to cheaply collect thousands of data points that means movement behaviourbe beyond the scope of this study if VHF collars were being used.

For Google Earth maps and further information on this project and other kangaroo research in the ACT go to: www.tams.act.gov.au and search for ´kangaroo research´.