Council ‘spying’ on koalas to keep them safe

Published 5:00pm 21 September 2022

Council ‘spying’ on koalas to keep them safe
Words by Jodie Powell

Artificial intelligence software similar to facial recognition technology is keeping koalas across the Moreton Bay Region safer during this year’s breeding season.

Mayor Peter Flannery says Council, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and the Daisy Hill Koala Centre are working together on a world-first trial using cameras to identify koala movements near roads to protect them from cars.

“I believe we are the first council in the world to commence the development of new analytics capability – often called AI (artificial intelligence) technology – across its CCTV network,” Mayor Flannery says.

Working together

Council ‘spying’ on koalas to keep them safe

“We are partnering with Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and the State Government’s Daisy Hill Koala Centre to build a catalogue of koala images that are helping identify koalas on or near roads.”

Councillor Cath Tonks (Div 9) says hundreds of images supporting the identification and detection of koalas have been catalogued as part of the project, which will teach cameras how to identify koalas.

“Koala breeding season is a magical time of the year in Moreton Bay but unfortunately it means that our male koalas are on the move and we often see a high number of koalas killed or injured on our roads,” she says.

Using CCTV

Council ‘spying’ on koalas to keep them safe

Craig Sweeney from security intelligence company Sapio says the images will be used so council CCTV cameras can differentiate between koalas and other animals, and then raise an alert that they’re in danger of reaching a road.

“We’re learning from the video that we’re recording of the koala motion and koala movements – the shape of the koala in different scenarios, whether it’s side-on, front-on or rear-on,” Craig says.

“We can apply those learnings in the other cameras within the Moreton Bay Regional camera system.

“Once we’ve got good with what we call the positive and negative reference images, we teach the camera or application what’s a good match and what is a bad match.

“The camera is no longer just a video feed, it’s a computer or processing system on its own.”

See the video

Cr Tonks says when koalas are detected in high-risk locations automated alerts will notify Council so warning signs can be activated.

“Then we can target our driver awareness campaigns to those areas and hopefully reduce the risk to our koala population,” she says.

Mayor Flannery says tracing koala movements will also show where fauna crossings should be built or koala-friendly trees planted so native animals can move safely and freely through the region.

Lone Pine wildlife curator Frank Mikula says the koala sanctuary is excited to be involved in the project.

“Now that they’re listed as an endangered species (it’s) a fantastic step,” Frank says.

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