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Revamping criteria under the Business Innovation and Investment Programme (BIIP) could provide urgent capital to help regional environmental businesses protect our environment and clamp down on illegal wildlife trade that has been exposed by COVID-19.

Organisations such as Wildlife Drones are among many regional environmental startups that are contributing to conservation measures to protect native species, address habitat loss and prevent illegal wildlife trade.

Wildlife Drones has developed innovative technology to assist governments and environmental organisations to better manage the landscape and track threatened and pest species.

Wildlife Drones Founder and Chief Executive Officer Dr Debbie Saunders said it developed the world’s most advanced radio-tracking drone system that could provide real-time locations on multiple animals all at once.

“Monitoring has been critical to protect a range of endangered species including Rosenberg’s Goanna, Banded Hare-wallabies and Swift Parrots, following the devastating impact of the recent bushfires,” Dr Saunders said.

Wildlife Drones is also playing an important role in protecting the world’s most trafficked animal, the pangolin, which is believed to be a missing linkin the transmission of COVID-19 from bats to humans.

Wildlife Drones works with organisations such as Save Vietnam’s Wildlife to track these fascinating animals as they are released back into the wild.

“COVID-19 has shone a light on illegal wildlife trafficking and the need to mitigate the risk of future zoonotic disease outbreak,” Dr Saunders said.

“Sadly, many critical projects have been forced into dormancy amidst the pandemic.”

Leading wealth manager Atlas Advisors Australia and university-backed commercialisation fund Uniseed are key investors in Wildlife Drones.

Executive Chairman of Atlas Advisors Australia, Guy Hedley said regional startups like Wildlife Drones could be given an important boost to help them survive beyond COVID-19, if the BIIP was reformed to create a category for regional investment.

He said the 188B Investment Visa Australia under the BIIP should be revamped to create a category for regional venture capital investment to provide specific support for regional businesses with an investment threshold set at approximately $1 million.

”Many regional companies and startups that grow from venture capital investment will be forced to close their doors without an injection of new capital,” Mr Hedley said.

“Reforming criteria under the 188B Investment Visa Australia could fill critically needed gaps in funding for regional areas at a time when businesses need it most.

“This could support and strengthen organisations like Wildlife Drones to create new and innovative products and services that protect native wildlife and conserve our fragile environment for the future.”