Treasured species… the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle.  
Photo: Sustainable Timber Tasmania

STATE business enterprise Sustainable Timber Tasmania is trialling the use of remote sensing technology to improve wedge-tailed eagle management options for the forestry and electricity network industries.

With a total adult population estimated to be much less than 1000 and with existential threats to existence including loss of nesting habitat, nest disturbance and collisions, the eagle is listed as an endangered species.

The Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax fleayi) occurs only in Tasmania, distinguished by its size as Australia’s largest bird of prey inhabiting a wide range of habitats from the coast to highland areas.

Discussing ‘Project Eagle Eye’, Dr Dean Williams, a Sustainable Timber Tasmania research affiliate for the University of Tasmania’s ARC Centre for Forest Value, spoke of the importance of using a wireless industrial internet system to monitor bird activity and establish an information ecosystem across the Tasmanian landscape.

“We are now using the latest sensor technology along with long-range wide-area networks to monitor eagle nest activity during the breeding season,” Dr Williams said.

The eagle’s breeding season runs from April until September and can be highly disruptive to Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s harvesting operations.

As it stands, STA monitors nest activity during breeding season with a highly experienced observer flying low over the forest in a helicopter, close enough to the nests to see if they are active. The observer then prepares and submits a written report to the land manager to make operation decisions.

“Through Eagle Eye, we hope to sow the seed for a digital forest, providing land managers with the capacity to monitor nest activity in real time, working in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders to preserve this treasured species for many generations to come,” Dr Williams said. 

Sustainable Timber manages about 800,000 ha of public production forest (permanent timber production zone land) and handles the production and sale of forest products, making available annually at least 137,000 cub m of high quality eucalypt sawlogs and veneer logs.

With the support of major forest managers, the Tasmanian forest industry regulator (FPA), the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment and Tasmania’s major electricity network manager, Sustainable Timber Tasmania, with the support of industry partners, has installed sensors on seven nest trees and video cameras in six of them.

“This project clearly is an example of collaboration in action; so far we have captured eagle activity in five of these nests,” Dr Williams said.

“There are nearly 10 times more nests then there are breeding pairs. However, only around 80 to 120 of these nests are used for each breeding season.”

A member of Responsible Wood, Sustainable Timber Tasmania has a dedicated team focused on managing the biodiversity of forests.

Endorsed by PEFC internationally, Responsible Wood is the Australian standard for sustainable forest management demonstrating through third-party certification that forests meet social and environmental benchmarks.

And for Sustainable Timber Tasmania – and Responsible Wood – the preservation of Tasmania’s wedged-tailed eagle nesting habitat is an important part of sustainable forest activities.