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CSIRO satellite tracking plan lifts cattle herding into the space age


Cattle herding has entered the space age with the CSIRO initiating a satellite cattle tracking program it hopes would help indigenous communities  across a vast area including Queensland’s north and the Northern Territory.

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CSIRO said more than 1000 feral buffalo and unmanaged cattle roaming northern Australia would be tagged and tracked as part of the world’s largest satellite herd-tracking program.

The $4 million, three-and-a-half-year project aimed to turn the destructive pests into economic, environmental and cultural opportunities for Indigenous communities across the region.

“Satellite GPS-tracking tags will be attached to the animals’ ears and deliver real-time, geographically accurate insights into herd density, accessibility, and transport costs,” CSIRO said.

The animals would be tracked across a combined area of 22,314 square kilometres, taking in the Arafura swamp catchment in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, and Upper Normanby and Archer River on Cape York Peninsula in Queensland.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said the program demonstrated the opportunities for Australia in growing its own space capabilities and supply chains while also advancing reconciliation.

“Australia’s burgeoning space industry is creating exciting new possibilities for innovative science and technology to solve our greatest challenges, like using satellites to manage our wide, open land in more culturally and environmentally sensitive ways,” Marshall said.

“This unique partnership is a reminder that the new frontier of space is an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of our past, and work alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure that space-enabled technology is being put to best use to improve the land we all share.

Also involved in the program will be Charles Darwin and James Cook universities, satellite company Kineis and the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA).

NAILSMA chief executive Ricky Archer said the program would create opportunities for economic development, landscape restoration and the protection of cultural sites.

“Using the information the ear tags generate, rangers and land managers can access more precise decision-making tools about where they focus efforts to reduce the impacts of buffalo and cattle grazing and eroding native flora and fauna,” Archer said.

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