A bilingual mobile app is at the centre of a huge effort by Indigenous rangers to track and record bilby movements in central Australia.
The Bilby Blitz program, run by the Northern Territory-based Central Land Council, involves 20 ranger groups surveying millions of hectares for traces of the endangered mammal.
When a ranger sees a bilby, they will add it to a central database using the Tracks app, where it can be shared with other ranger groups.
The app and the Bilby Blitz program was launched by Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner, Sally Box.
“About 80 per cent of bilbies now occur on Indigenous-owned or Indigenous-managed land,” Ms Box said.
“[So] the role of Indigenous rangers and Indigenous communities in protecting the bilby is absolutely critical.”
The species once roamed across most of the continent, but is now confined to parts of central and Western Australia.
Tracking efforts will start over Easter, with rangers using traditional knowledge to identify traces of the animal.
“It’s combining traditional knowledge of country and tracking skills with digital technology, so that we can get a better understanding of what’s going on with the bilby across its range,” Ms Box said.
The Tracks app isn’t limited to the bilby — it can also be used to log sightings or traces of any threatened species.
Keeping language alive
Tracks can be set to English or Warlpiri, an Indigenous language commonly used north and west of Alice Springs.
Central Land Council ranger Dione Kelly said many found it easier to use in their native tongue.
“We use it in Warlpiri because it’s important that elders can relate to the app in Warlpiri, and even the young ones that come through the school, junior rangers, we can teach them Warlpiri,” he said.
Ti Tree ranger co-ordinator Josephine Grant said it was important that the app be rolled out in other Central Australian Indigenous languages.
“It’s keeping your language alive,” Ms Grant said.
“Keeping your language alive, and teaching students at the same time.”