Council partners with Griffith University for koala facial recognition project

Redland City Council is working with Griffith University researchers to see if facial recognition technology can be used to identify the movement of koalas and assess their use of wildlife road crossing structures.

Mayor Karen Williams said Council supported the university-led pilot study and had provided input on the proposed research applications near Eprapah Creek and Coolnwynpin Creek.

“This is a really exciting project which aims to see if the kind of facial recognition technology used to identify humans at airports can also be used to identify individual koalas,” Cr Williams said.

“The researchers want to better understand koala road crossing behavior in an effort to reduce the number of koalas being hit by vehicles.”

A previous similar project conducted by Griffith University used traditional technology such as GPS collars and tags to track individual movements through road underpasses.

This new study will use video cameras and sensors to collect images of koalas using road underpasses, then use non-intrusive artificial intelligence software to recognise each individual.

Associate Professor Jun Zhou, who will lead the two-year study, said the collected data would be analysed to provide a greater understanding of koalas’ use of road crossing structures and help to design and optimize the location of fauna mitigation measures on roads.

Cr Williams said Council, through its Koala Conservation Program, had implemented measures to mitigate the impacts of roads and other threats to local koala populations.

“This latest research could help us understand whether road underpasses are used by all members of a koala population, or whether the same individuals use the crossings repeatedly,” she said.

“The aim is to see if crossings enable different koalas to move safely under roads, allowing them to access further resources and to enable the dispersal of young koalas, which is vital to ensure gene flow across the wider population.”

Researchers are currently working with organisations such as the Daisy Hill Koala Centre, Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to build a database of individual koala images.

They plan to install about 10 video cameras and sensors in a number of Redland City locations by the end of July.

“This is ground-breaking research,” Cr Williams said.

“It will allow continuous, concurrent monitoring of koala habitat using artificial intelligence, reducing intrusion and the hours required to tag and survey koalas required in the past.”

The research team is encouraging local residents to help build the database of individual koala images by providing photos of koalas and where and when they were spotted. Photographs can be sent to the Griffith University research team via a QR code (below).

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