A new approach to managing wildlife road crossing incidents on the Sunshine Coast is being trialled at Sippy Downs.
Sunshine Coast Council, in partnership with USC, has installed an acoustic fence and will also be adding purpose-built electronic signs along Sippy Downs Drive with the goal of reducing incidents involving kangaroos along this stretch of road.
The “virtual fence” and the electronic signs are designed to change both kangaroo and driver behaviour.
Most collisions occur because of the surprise element for both the driver and the kangaroo.
With this equipment, kangaroos are alerted to oncoming cars or motorbikes before crossing and correspondingly the cars and motorbikes are warned to slow down.
The virtual fence is a breakthrough technology, using a network of stand-alone acoustic posts which are activated by vehicle headlights.
When activated they emit an acoustic signal and a light which is not so much a deterrent, as giving the animals pause before crossing the road, long enough to prevent a collision.
The system developed by Australian company Wildlife Safety Solutions has been used with success to protect the Tasmanian Devil population in the island state.
Sunshine Coast Council has paid for the materials and installation of the fence, and USC will provide ongoing basic maintenance and monitoring of Kangaroos.
As part of the research project, USC researchers will monitor the sites over coming months and report back on the outcomes of the trial.
Division 6 Cr Christian Dickson said the trial was part of a wide range of proactive measures council was implementing to protect the region’s natural environment and local kangaroo populations.
“Hopefully this trial will achieve a win-win for the kangaroos and motorists,” Cr Dickson said.
“Council is committed to protecting our natural environment, and by partnering with USC to trial this innovative technology, we can expand our toolbox of methods used to help our unique local wildlife, and our residents, move around safely.
“Council’s previous work to cut back vegetation along Sippy Downs Drive and improve signage has already improved visibility for motorists and safety for kangaroos.”
Environment Portfolio Councillor Jenny McKay said council had recently started a project to better understand and ultimately improve fauna movement across the Sunshine Coast.
The project includes determining the location and effectiveness of existing fauna movement infrastructure, confirming problem areas and prioritising locations where fauna movement could potentially be improved.
“Research and wildlife monitoring projects such as this will inform the development of our Kangaroo Management Plan for the region.
“In addition to these practical trials, council will continue to expand and connect priority habitat corridors through our Environment Levy land acquisition program, which has secured 3434 hectares of land for environmental purposes.
“We also recognise of the valuable service provided by wildlife carers across the Sunshine Coast, providing $90,000 in support each year through our Environment Levy Partnerships Program.”
USC Lecturer in Wildlife Ecology Dr Scott Burnett said several strategies had been put in place at the university to reduce collisions with kangaroos, including the installation of road signage and speed bumps, and an awareness-raising campaign for staff and students.
“While this trial has the potential to assist with reducing the number of incidents involving kangaroos and vehicles, it’s important to remember that kangaroos, like all wildlife, can never be managed 100% of the time,” Dr Burnett said.
“The community can play its part in protecting kangaroos by driving slowly and carefully on and around the USC campus and nearby schools, particularly along Sippy Downs Drive and at dawn and dusk.
”We also ask the community to help with monitoring along Sippy Downs Drive by reporting all kangaroo sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org.”