Keeping an ear out: State grant to fund bioacoustic research on critically endangered Plains-wanderer


Critically Endangered Plains-wanderer

Funds will be used to deploy solar powered recorders for 24/7 monitoring

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) has secured $145,045 in state government funding to implement a search and monitoring program for threatened species on the North Australian Pastoral Company’s (NAPCo) Coorabulka Station in western Queensland.

Funds from the Queensland Government’s Threatened Species Research Grants program will be used to establish 60 monitoring stations across the 629,000 hectare cattle station, which will detect and record audio and image data for the critically endangered Plains-wanderer as well as the threatened Bilby and Kowari. Each station will be made up of advanced solar powered Bio-Acoustic Recorders (BARs) and cameras capable of 24-hour data recording over a 12-month period. Built by Frontier Labs, a specialist bioacoustics company based in south-east Queensland, the Solar BARs will be further modified to protect them from western Queensland’s large temperature variations and animal disturbances.

Once collected, the audio data will be analysed using an open-source recogniser currently in development with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and images will be analysed by AWC using AI technology. The analysed data will be used to describe the distribution and status of Plains-wanderer, Bilby and Kowari across Coorabulka Station. The data will also provide details on the distribution of cats, foxes, Dingoes, stocking rates, vegetation and land-condition which will allow AWC to explore the effect of these factors on the distribution on these threatened species.

Aled Hoggett, Regional Operations Manager, welcomed the funding. He expects the remote sensing equipment will provide much-needed data on the Plains-wanderer, Kowari and Bilby.

“Species such as the Plains-wanderer are super cryptic and largely active at night, making them difficult to monitor by conventional methods,” explained Aled. “There is just so much we don’t yet know about this elusive bird and Solar BARs will provide us with a large dataset that will improve our knowledge of the species, as well as the Bilby and Kowari.”

“Next year we hope to know more about the abundance of the three species and their activities, and help shape AWC’s approach to protecting them into the future,” said Allan Cooney, NAPCo Chief Executive.

AWC and NAPCo entered a landmark partnership in April 2022, to collaborate on positive, measurable outcomes for biodiversity across NAPCo’s six million hectare estate. During the initial year of the partnership, AWC deployed 10 audio monitors to confirm the presence of the Plains-wanderer and the cryptic Carpentarian Grasswren in the Channel Country. Earlier this year, another eight recorders were deployed in search of the Plains-wanderer at Coorabulka.

Currently, there are historical records for the Plains-wanderer at NAPCo’s Monkira (1983) and Glenormiston Stations (1984). While the species has never been recorded on Coorabulka, the station is modelled as suitable habitat and recent records from the adjacent Astrebla National Park gives confidence that they are highly likely to be present.

For more information on AWC’s partnership with NAPCo, click here.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) is a global leader in conservation, providing hope to Australia’s wildlife with a science-informed, land management partnership model that delivers high impact results. AWC is a national leader in landscape scale conservation land management, reintroductions of threatened species and the establishment of feral predator-free areas.

North Australian Pastoral Company (NAPCo) is one of Australia’s oldest and largest beef producers, founded in 1877 and managing around 200,000 head of cattle across Queensland and the Northern Territory, NAPCo’s herd are born and raised as a single source, closed-loop herd, with full traceability throughout its supply chain. With a true commitment to animal welfare, NAPCo cattle are ethically raised and free to roam fertile forest-friendly grasslands for most of their lives.  The NAPCo property estate consists of 13 cattle stations and 1 feedlot and farm, spanning 6.1million hectares across Queensland and the Northern Territory, and continues to be grazed responsibly and sustainably, with over 385,000 hectares preserved in an approved Nature Refuge for native and rare flora and fauna. More information can be found at

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