There’s a beautiful rock-wallaby that lives in the crevices at Ubirr, Kakadu. We see them every time we visit, and have pointed them out to many other visitors. Their presence at Ubirr is quite well known – we have spoken to Aboriginal Guides up there who also see them often.
So it came as a surprise to find that this rock-wallaby is a newly-discovered species, that information on their basic behaviour is sparse, and that few images of them exist online.
Luckily, as Wildlife Guides we are in a habit of photographing and documenting most creatures we see. My photos and videos of Wilkins’ Rock-wallaby now form the majority of the gallery on CSIRO’s Atlas of Living Australia, and the only image of this wallaby on wikipedia. My video of them mating is the only video showing their reproductive behaviour on YouTube.
Observations of wildlife taken on tours can be extremely useful to scientists, land managers and other wildlife enthusiasts. Tour Guides often visit the same sites repeatedly, sometimes on days or at times of day that others avoid. Our sightings are valuable and can really help wildlife, but they are not much good if they stay inside our heads.
But how to do it? Its not hard. Here’s a step by step guide to making your wildlife observations count:
1. Take a photo. Half a second to take a photo, and you have tons of information at your fingertips. The camera usually records a time & date, some even record a GPS location. A photo will often record the habitat too, which can be useful for researchers.
2. Identify the animal. The photo is critical if you can’t identify the animal on the spot. These websites will help with identification:
- NatureShare https://natureshare.org.au/ You can join interest groups and submit photos.
- iNaturalist https://www.inaturalist.org/home Experts check your identification when you submit. You can also keep lists on this site.
- Facebook groups:
Australian Marsupials, Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates and Plants: https://www.facebook.com/groups/144261675750262/
Australian Mammal Photography: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AustralianMammals/
Australian Bird Identification: https://www.facebook.com/groups/209677085864957/
3. Submit your observation to an online atlas. Its generally best to do this after you’ve identified the species on the sites above.
- All Australian animals and plants: Atlas of Living Australia https://www.ala.org.au/ This one is great for mammals, reptiles, butterflies and plants. Scientists use it – it has enormous credibility. This site also draws in all the data from eBird, NatureShare, museum collections, all scientific observations, so it is the single go-to source. Only problem is that you have to do each species one by one, so its not convenient for full bird lists.
- Birds: eBird http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ this one is very well set up for complete bird lists anywhere in the world. You submit all the birds you see in a location in one easy step.
- iNaturalist https://www.inaturalist.org/home This is a US-based site but really good too.
But there are so many animals! Where do I start?
Birds are well known in urban areas, but bird sightings in remote areas are important. Mammals – even the ‘common’ ones – are less well known, particularly in remote areas. Knowledge of Australian reptiles, butterflies & moths, insects and fungi is particularly poor and observations of these can be really helpful.
Animals that are Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened really need our help. Even animals that we think of as common are sometimes facing threats, and their future is really in the balance. For instance the Lace Monitor (Goanna) is now listed as Endangered, and the Grey-headed Flying-fox is Vulnerable – sightings of these animals are really important.
Each state also has a Threatened Species List – some are harder to find than others. These are the states that publish a list online:
If I can help please contact me.