Record numbers of Eco-Hunters zeroed in and snapped away at hundreds of frogs, birds, crabs, insects and other exciting wildlife during the recent school holidays.
Sunshine Coast Council’s Eco-Hunt Adventure at the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary saw visitors record their wildlife finds on the QuestaGame app, with one family even coming every day of the school holidays, except for two days when it was raining.
This year’s Eco-Hunt sightings hit more than double last year’s and the number of species mapped also rose by more than 60%. Visitors recorded more than 760 sightings of 161 different species.
The most unusual sighting, which received the highest points, was a Naskrecki’s katydid insect.
All sightings helped contribute to mapping Australia’s biodiversity, with these Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary sightings now to be added to CSIRO’s Atlas of Living Australia.
Kids and adult explorers alike competed for prizes donated by local businesses, which were presented today (August 1) by Division 9 Councillor Stephen Robinson at Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary.
Lauren Tomkinson, a 12-year-old student from Tewantin State School, took out the Champion Spotter and Champion Identifier award and was thrilled with her improvement from previous years.
“I can't believe it!” Miss Tomkinson said.
“Last year when I did the Eco-Hunt I was way behind. I think I got about fifth, so this year I tried a lot harder and my parents took me to the Wetlands three times on the holidays so that I could take a lot more photos.
“It was a lot of fun, but Dad and I had to lay down and rest on the boardwalk because I had sore legs from all the walking.”
Cr Robinson said the Eco-Hunt was a school holiday activity with a difference and had been a great success.
“Hundreds of people took part in the competition this year, with some coming from outside the Sunshine Coast region to participate,” Cr Robinson said.
“We were also pleased to see some of the world’s top ranked QuestaGame players come to the Wetlands.
“It encouraged visitors to explore the Wetlands and submit photos of wildlife through an app, and was a wonderful demonstration of how to combine the technological world with the natural world, encouraging children to get out in nature.
“The annual Eco-Hunt also helps council and the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary Support Group as partners in managing the reserve.”
The Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary is managed by council, Education Queensland and the Maroochy Wetlands Support Group Inc., a community volunteer group.
These wetlands are located within the Australian-first ‘blue carbon’ project, a joint environmental innovation between council, the State Government and Unitywater.
Cr Robinson highlighted the significance of researching the Wetlands’ biodiversity, especially given the start of this collaborative project.
“Through activities like Eco-Hunt, we can better understand the Wetlands’ biodiversity, and therefore better manage and protect it for future generations,” Cr Robinson said.
“This is particularly timely as council works with the State Government and Unitywater on an area known as the Blue Heart, 5000 hectares of natural flood plain in the Maroochy River Catchment.
“The Blue Heart project will support landholders and local communities to adopt new land management practices that build future economic and environmental resilience, while retaining a focus on flood hazard management.”
For more information about the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary, please visit council’s website (www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au) or www.maroochywetlandssupport.org.au.
For more information about the Blue Heart project, please visit council’s website (www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au).