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Kangaroo Island school kids adopting app technology to protect bushfire impacted birds

Conservationists are recruiting Kangaroo Island’s school students in their fight to safeguard the future of bird species critically impacted by the Black Summer Fires. 

Home to more than 260 native birds, with 17 found only on the island, BirdLife Australia estimates some species, such as the Kangaroo Island Southern Emu-wren, Kangaroo Island Whipbird and Western Bassian Thrush lost up to 80 per cent of their habitat, increasing their risk of population extinction. 

But with $50,000 funding support from Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants, BirdLife Australia aims to educate and engage local schools, along with private landholders and community group volunteers in monitoring these birds, using BirdLife Australia’s mobile phone app, Birdata. 

“These cryptic birds were flagged as a high priority due to significant habitat loss, their sedentary nature and significantly lower ability to disperse during the fires, all of which have fragmented their populations,” explained Janelle Thomas, BirdLife Australia’s Preventing Extinctions Project Coordinator.  

“Given the limited bird survey data for Kangaroo Island, ongoing surveys will be important to help assess the post-fire abundance and distribution of birds in the long term, particularly for those endemic and priority species,” Ms Thomas said. “This will help improve our understanding of their response to bushfires and their capacity to recover, and inform conservation efforts to help secure their populations on Kangaroo Island. 

“Involving the community in this work is vital, and with this funding from Landcare, we will develop resources to educate the island’s school children about the birds that are special to Kangaroo Island and what to look out for when they take part in surveys with our specially designed app Birdata.” 

 Birdata allows Birdlife Australia collaboratively and scientifically collect data used to gain knowledge about Australian birds in conservation and management of species and their habitats. Visit Birdata.birdlife.org.au to register an account and you can start contributing to surveys across Australia. As part of an education program, students will learn about the birds unique to the island and how to identity them. 

“The next generation will be the future custodians of Kangaroo Island, so we want them to be armed with the best knowledge and experience to protect the future of the special birds that also call it home,” Ms Thomas added. 
Funded by the Australian Government, the $14 million Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants are supporting projects in regions impacted by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019–20. 
For further information visit landcareledbushfiregrants.org.au 

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