Satellites to manage wild buffalo herds from space

Beef Central, 27/05/2020
Water buffalo in Northern Australia. Credit: Peter Cooke.

Water buffalo in Northern Australia. Credit: Peter Cooke.

MORE than 1000 feral buffalo and unmanaged cattle roaming Northern Australia will be tagged and tracked as part of the world’s largest satellite herd-tracking program, announced today by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO.

Coinciding with National Reconciliation Week this week, the $4 million, 3.5 year project aims to turn the destructive pests into economic, environmental and cultural opportunities for Indigenous communities across the region, as well as create new ‘best practice’ for managing large herds using space technology.

Satellite ear tag Credit James Cook University

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.

The animals will 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 our 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,” Dr Marshall said.

Kineis nanosatellite planned for launch in 2022. Credit: David Ducros.

“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.

“The benefits of space should be available to all Australians, which is why we and our partners will make the schematics, software and code that power the system publicly available for free under creative commons, so other communities can also benefit.”

The collaborative program will see CSIRO and Charles Darwin University develop the data management tools; James Cook University create the GPS-tracking ear tags; satellite company Kineis provide access to their satellite fleet and technical expertise; and the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA) drive efforts on the ground in partnership with Mimal Land Management Aboriginal Corporation, Aak Puul Ngangtam Ltd, and Normanby Land Management.

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

Environmental damage caused by water buffalo

“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,” Mr Archer said.

“As our environment recovers, it will be more resilient in the face of fires, invasive plants and climate change, and we’ll be able to protect sites of cultural significance to Indigenous Australians.”

“Over the course of the project, we’ll also be developing best-practice ethical mustering and handling guidelines so these animals can become part of the ethically-sourced meat industry, creating more jobs in our communities.”

The project is being funded by Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment under the National Landcare Program; Smart Farming Partnerships initiative.

Source: CSIRO, James Cook University


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  1. Gary Richards, 28/05/2020

    Hello Beef Central, I started my story and it dissapeared. My grand father Alben Perrett bought Mt Bundy Station just outside adelaide river 1951. He later leased Cannon Hill and Jim Jim until he left in 1967. I have a lot of history and photos of this erra. my grandfather built two abbattoirs one at deep water and the other at cannon hill. he was the first to export buffalo meats overseas, and also the hides. He had about 100 aborigines on the stations working for him. I can remember seeing thousands of buffalo on mt bundy, I remember one day my grandfather said there would be ten thousand buffalo on one plane, Now this is very important in the 60’s I can remember all these very open plains where you could see for miles, there where timbered ridges only, When the government eradicated the buffalo in later years this upset the balance of nature, the buffalo grazed on these plains and kept them clean, last year I visited deep water and Mt bundy and the regrowth is so thick you cant walk through it, the poor old buffalo copped another hiding back in the war time, the air force used the buffalo as target practice and almost wiped them out. These people that think they can catch buffalo and put tags in them, I dont think they have a clue on how to handle buffalo. they wont walk in yards they just stand and they have to be phisically pushed with a vehicle. the only way would be with a chopper and tranquillizer, this would be to costly. I have a lot of history on Mt Bundy, about Fred Hardy a Previous owner before my grandfather, he had a set of buffalo horns 7 feet accross, I have photos of him. My name is Gary Richards, Owner of Whale City Wholesale & Bulk Meats in Hervey Bay. 0416025694 41283841. Email

  2. Paul D. Butler, 27/05/2020

    Aussie “scientists” lose their minds.

    Why would anyone what to pay $4000 per head (number in article) to know where a buffalo was at?

    Pure BS (buffalo excrement) as this project does nothing to change anything in terms of management of buffalo.

  3. IVAN COULTER, 27/05/2020

    fantastic!! another great idea & expensence opposed to why Australia can only focus on culling/eradication instead of abattoirs, employment & export dollars, if half the effort was put into utilising our feral animals into international export markets instead of easy options of culling, if Greenies or Govt. scientists are that smart then eradicate cane toads or the millipedes that Govt Quarantine accidently let into the country

  4. Mike Earl Teelow, 27/05/2020

    What about the northern Kimberly’s

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