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Evaluating behavioural responses of macropods to drones
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  • Yee Von Teo,
  • Jessie Buettel,
  • Darren Turner,
  • Elise Ringwaldt,
  • Barry Brook
Yee Von Teo
University of Tasmania

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Jessie Buettel
University of Tasmania
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Darren Turner
University of Tasmania
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Elise Ringwaldt
University of Tasmania
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Barry Brook
University of Tasmania
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Abstract

Wildlife monitoring is a crucial component of conservation management, with reliable field surveys being important for trend analysis and population viability modelling. Unoccupied aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones, are rapidly supplanting manned aircraft for aerial wildlife counts. Here we investigated and compared the impacts of drone presence on two large terrestrial mammals from Tasmania, Australia—Bennett’s wallaby (Notamacropus rufogriseus), and Forester kangaroo (Macropus giganteus tasmaniensis) —using a commercial quadcopter model: DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Further, a ground bird, the domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus), was used as a model organism to further investigate behavioural responses of ‘aerial aware’ species to drones. We found that M. giganteus tasmaniensis and N. rufogriseus started to exhibit noticeable changes in behaviour, including evasion, when the drone motor sound exceeded ~50 decibels (dB) as heard from the ground (at flight altitudes of 30 – 50 m). At lower sound levels (48 dB and below, above 50 m), the animal’s response was minimal. The response of G. gallus domesticus to the drone was remarkably similar to that of the Macropus species, despite the species generally being more susceptible to, and instinctively vigilant against drone-sized aerial predators such as raptors. This study has established the baseline information required to understand the limits of drone operations, in terms of target disturbance, for macropod surveys.
18 Aug 2023Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
28 Aug 2023Assigned to Editor
28 Aug 2023Submission Checks Completed
04 Sep 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned