Facial Recognition AI Helps Save the Koalas in Moggill & Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Did you know that the Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre and the Lone Pine Sanctuary in Fig Tree Pocket are harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by using facial recognition technology to help save the koalas?

Efforts to bolster the survival of koalas are now complemented by the innovative work of a team of Griffith University AI researchers and ecologists, who have secured funding to advance their ‘facial recognition’ camera technology at koala crossing locations across South East Queensland (SEQ).

For the third consecutive year, these researchers are working to deploy state-of-the-art “facial recognition” camera technology at strategic koala crossing locations across SEQ.

This groundbreaking initiative aims to monitor and understand how koalas utilise these crossing points, ultimately providing invaluable research-based insights to help safeguard this declining population. 

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Leading this pioneering study is Professor Jun Zhou from Griffith’s School of Information and Communication Technology. The project’s inception was made possible by a $90,000 Community Sustainability Action Grant awarded by the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science in March 2021, followed by an additional $100,000 grant from DES in June 2023.

“This project extends our innovative AI-powered koala monitoring system to cover wider areas of koala habitat in South East Queensland, and engage with 14 local community groups across 10 local government areas to facilitate the installation and maintenance of the camera network,” Professor Zhou shared.

In July 2021, the team successfully deployed 24 AI-powered cameras at strategic koala crossing locations within the Redland City Council area. These cameras automatically activate in response to koala movement, capturing hundreds of videos and images which are then transmitted to a server at Griffith University. 

The AI technology developed by the research team studies these videos and images, enabling it to identify individual koalas.

Mogill Rehabilitation Centre
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Caroline Moss, Queensland Rail Group Senior Manager Environment & Sustainability, emphasized the significance of this research.

“A research project like this helps us to understand how this technology can be applied, not only here in the Redlands, but where appropriate in other locations, given that Queensland Rail operates a really large network,” she said.

To ensure the AI can accurately distinguish one koala from another based on their appearance and movements, the research team collaborated closely with conservation groups such as the Koala Action Group Redlands, Daisy Hill Koala Centre, Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre, and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

“We can see from the data that koalas are in trouble here. They’ve recently been listed as endangered in Australia, and Southeast Queensland was formally a hotspot. The driver of that decline has been urbanisation,” Dr. Douglas Kerlin, a co-researcher, said.

The research project is particularly relevant during the breeding season when koalas face increased risks, including collisions with vehicles. 

“We’re all about sharing information, and it’s really good to be able to put people in contact and create that conduit between researchers so that everyone can get to the same goal faster,” Frank Mikula from Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary near Kenmore, highlighted the importance of collaboration. 

“The technology does the heavy lifting for us, and that’s really important moving forward. 

“With increased knowledge about how koalas are crossing roads, we can better inform mitigation and management so that we can ensure a better long-term future for koalas.” 

Published 2-Oct-2023

Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre Upgrade Gets Funding

The State Budget 2019-20 will allocate more than $90 million to protect wildlife and the environment, with part of the funds going to the Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre upgrade project.

The State Government has set aside $3.6 million to save koala population in Queensland. The State Government is earmarking $2.1-million to acquire a protected corridor in Noosa, whilst $1.5 million will go to Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre and Daisy Hill Koala Centre.

Koala rehabilitation and conservation

Part of this year’s $1.5 million continued koala conservation budget will be used for the Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre infrastructure improvements project and to support the facility’s ongoing work. Also included in the Budget is the funding to RSPCA for the oversight of the 1300 WILDLIFE Hotline service.

Photo Credit: Ingrid Schneider / Pixabay

Formerly known as the Moggill Koala Hospital, the Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre opened in 1991 to answer the need for a centre where injured or sick koalas can be admitted for treatment and/or rehabilitation.

Koalas are microchipped for identification and, once treated and rehabilitated, are returned to their natural habitat. All admissions are recorded and entered into the database to help in the identification of koala habitat and monitoring of their population.

National parks revitalisation

Apart from the koala conservation, Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science Leeanne Enoch announced other environmental initiatives that will be funded in this year’s Budget including national parks revitalisation, crocodile management, koala conservation, fire management and the eradication of yellow crazy ants.

A total of $10 million will go towards the ongoing recovery of national parks affected by weather events and the ongoing improvements and upgrades to other iconic national parks. Included are parks in the Whitsundays and Mackay; parks in the Daintree, Gondwana World Heritage Area; Noosa National Park; and the Great Sandy National Park.

Noosa National Park
Photo Credit: The State of Queensland (Department of Environment and Science) 2012–2019 / findapark.npsr.qld.gov.au

Other Budget highlights for the environment

Minister Enoch also said that this year’s Budget includes funding for the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s (QPWS) Enhanced Fire Management program ($16 million) and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area’s yellow crazy ant local eradication program ($9 million over three years), and improved crocodile management ($6 million over two years).

Also, $1 million will be provided over two years waste management data strategy development, as well as $75.4 million to be allocated this financial year — out of the  $330 million, five-year allocation — for the continuing work to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

“Improving waste data management is a crucial part of implementing waste management reforms in Queensland.

“This year’s budget will also see expenditure for key programs funded from the waste levy, including programs to support small businesses and the construction industry to improve their waste practices, and further investment in grants for environmental projects,” Ms Enoch said.