Back to the future: using new technologies to improve wildlife conservation

Back to the future: using new technologies to improve wildlife conservation

Dr Julia Hoy – Research Manager, Hidden Vale Wildlife Centre (view profile)

For wildlife conservation to be most effective in the future, there will be an increasing need to embrace technological advances from wide-ranging sources. Solutions to the global issues related to wildlife conservation require innovative thinking to maximise impact. One emerging area of technology involves the use of microchip-automated devices to control access of wildlife to resources.

Captive bred owl monkeys (Aotus spp.), mahogany gliders (Petaurus gracilis) and bridled nailtail wallabies (Onychogalea fraenata); as well as a wild-caught brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa) and northern brown bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus) have successfully used microchip-automated feeders and doors. Our research shows there is great potential for microchip-automated technology to be integrated with traditional captive wildlife management methods and reintroduction programs.

Microchip-automated technology can provide captive wildlife with an extensive and unpredictable variety of food, enrichment and access to space on an individual animal basis, to more accurately replicate aspects of the natural environment which improves their welfare. There is also potential to utilise microchip-automation as a tool in wildlife soft-release programs by facilitating individual animal access to resources (e.g. food, refuge from predators) while also allowing ongoing monitoring of released animals. Using this developing technology has exciting potential to increase the success of wildlife reintroduction programs which could consequently improve wildlife conservation.