Pythons in the Pilbara

It’s not an animal commonly recorded within the Pilbara however the Pilbara Olive Python is the focus of a new two-year partnership between BHP, Biota Environmental Sciences and Helix Molecular Solutions to understand more about this endangered subspecies.

Using both proven and new innovative technology, the team will launch a monitoring program to track the animal’s movements and investigate genetic characteristics of populations.

BHP Biodiversity Specialist Matthew Love said the Pilbara Olive Python is Australia’s second largest snake yet very little is known about the biology or ecology of this subspecies.

“By contributing to the general understanding of these aspects we hope to identify likely impact pathways associated with our operations and develop necessary mitigation measures to reduce potential impacts.  But we also envisage that the information obtained from this study will have a broader application to conservation aims beyond the sphere of mining.”

“The outcome of this research could help us improve sustainability in our mining processes, through further understanding of the relationship between the subspecies and the environments where we mine”, Matthew said.

Dr Zoë Hamilton, Team Lead at Biota Environmental Sciences and Helix Molecular Solutions, said: “By using multiple detection techniques and approaches, in different populations across the Pilbara, we aim to test the various methods currently used to detect this subspecies and expand on the possible interpretations and implications of the results from such testing.”

“In doing so, we are highlighting the challenges of monitoring when animal abundance is low and detection rates are even lower. This is especially relevant to the Pilbara Olive Python which seems to spend much of its time hidden within rocky habitats or thick riparian vegetation.”

Since the project commenced sixteen pythons have already been tagged and fitted with radio-transmitters.