Conservation Volunteers Australia

Conservation Volunteers has partnered with individuals, businesses and governments in the conservation of our unique environment since 1982. In that time we have welcomed hundreds of thousands of volunteers from around Australia and across the world and supported their participation in a diversity of important projects to protect and enhance our environment. Our Vision We believe in a healthy and sustainable environment, and for everyone to be involved in managing and protecting that environment. Our Mission To attract and manage volunteers to participate in projects that protect or enhance our environment and heritage. Our Objectives 1. A healthy, diverse and sustainably managed envir...
Apr 14, 2015

Taking Care of The Elders - Final Chapter

Tasmanian Devil*
Tasmanian Devil*

This report marks the final chapter of our successful partnership with Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and the completed ‘Retirement Village’ that now stretches approximately 600m across the hill of the sanctuary, apart from some finishing touches and a glass of champagne to toast the ‘old devils’ as they arrive at their new home.  We will be sure to send you a further update and some pictures as the devils settle in.

With little advancement being made towards successfully discovering a treatment or cure for the spread of the deadly facial tumour disease, which is still currently decimating the Tasmanian devil population, efforts to save and preserve these iconic creatures have not abated. While the science is still at work, various forms of on-ground activity continue at a grass roots level; activity that sees united sections of the Tasmanian community combine forces to ensure the devil will have a future in this state.

Healthy populations of devils are being quarantined around Tasmania in a variety of locations including a closely monitored group of new arrivals to Maria Island, situated off the East Coast of Tasmania. These devils are being observed to assess their suitability in not only adapting to their new environment, but also to gauge what impact they have upon the existing wildlife species and birdlife on the Island. In other regions extensive devil proof fencing is being erected across country to confine the movement of both healthy and affected devil populations – where neither the two shall mix.

Meanwhile the breeding programs continue and our ageing devils, those that have their best years behind them, are gearing up for residency at their new home. According to Greg Irons from the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, the first arrivals will begin once the final tasks are undertaken and completed in our joint “Taking Care of The Elders’ project.

With the months of summer passing, the planting season is now upon us and CVA’s teams of volunteers have commenced re-vegetating the devil enclosure to provide native habitat and shelter through the planting of selected native trees, shrubs and grasses. In addition to the plantings we have been installing an irrigation system. This will allow for healthy plant establishment and naturally, water is an essential commodity for the resident devils.

Finishing touches are all important and none more so than issuing volunteers with cans of paint and brushes – a task that will not only provide a facelift for the secondhand materials used in the structure, but an opportunity to blend into the hillside above Bonorong. This will be followed by an invitation to students from the local high school to ‘get creative’ and demonstrate their artistic skills by adorning the visible walls of the enclosure with depictions of wildlife and the environment as they see it.  This will provide a great opportunity for students to learn more about our natural and cultural environment while having fun painting up storm.

Our ‘Taking Care of The Elders’ project has captured the imagination of all involved since we began eighteen months ago – from the donors of project resources to our many volunteer teams. The project has offered an opportunity for people to become involved in not just a topical issue, but one which is dear to us all, and perhaps a little different. We wish to thank you for your generosity and ongoing support in this attempt to provide a sustainable future for this iconic creature that is the Tasmanian devil.

CVA is continuing to develop new opportunities with partners to ensure the ongoing survival of Tasmanian Devils.  One of the key devil conservation strategies is the establishment of captive breeding programs that are taking place in a small number of locations across Australia and may be the last vestige of hope for these amazing animals if the wild population does not survive.  Many of these programs have to deal with the ever increasing demand for enclosure space, increasing animal husbandry efforts, enclosure maintenance and financial constraints in order to continue expanding the breeding program for successful Tasmanian Devil survival.  Importantly these captive populations will form the basis of future reintroductions to replace or supplement wild populations.

With an increasing and urgent need for Tasmanian Devil captive breeding programs and facilities, the Australian Reptile Park in Gosford created Devil Ark in 2011, an intensive Tasmanian Devil breeding program based at a property in the Barrington Tops mountains of NSW.  At an altitude of 1,350 metres, the Barrington Tops provides the perfect breeding environment for devils. The Tasmanian-like vegetation and cool, wet and snowy conditions means the devils are at home in this environment.  Tasmanian Devils at Devil Ark are kept in a natural environment to maintain their wild behaviour and the keepers intervene as little as possible.  These natural behaviours and lack of human conditioning is important if they are to be released into the wild in the future.  The Devil Ark program was launched in January 2011 with 44 Tasmanian devils.  Following two very successful breeding seasons, the Devil Ark population now stands at 90 devils, with more plans for expansion.

Ian Walker, Director Conservation with Conservation Volunteers Australia says “to house the increasing population of devils at Devil Ark, more enclosures need to be built and existing enclosures require ongoing maintenance and habitat enhancement.

With increasing awareness for the Devil Ark program and public motivation to actively assist we can make a huge difference.  Extending the enclosures, ensuring devils can breed and are free of the tumour will be critical for future reintroduction into the wild. CVA is committed to securing the Tasmanian Devil in the wild and we encourage you to get behind the next devil conservation project.” 

Thank you for your continued support of the Tasmanian Devil - your help is needed now more than ever as we move to the next phase of our goal to give the Tasmanian Devil a Wild Future.

 

*Photo courtesy Greg Irons
The planting begins!
The planting begins!
Digging it!
Digging it!
United in cause from opposite ends of the globe
United in cause from opposite ends of the globe

Links:

Mar 31, 2015

Rehabilitating Critical Habitat for Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats

Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat
Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat

We have just had a very long spell with low rainfall at Brookfield Conservation Park and this has had quite an impact on the vegetation, particularly native grasses. As such, there is even more urgency to establish the Native Grass trial plots at Brookfield. This will help us identify the best methods of rehabilitating critical habitat for Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats and to better understand how to manage total grazing pressure in the Park. Our volunteers and the Friends of Brookfield Conservation Park are helping to drive this project. Seed has been collected from the park and is about to be propagated and planted into fenced and unfenced demonstration plots. Volunteers and researchers will also be experimentally distributing seed directly into plots and will then monitor what happens over the next few years. Monitoring is another critical task for volunteers who are interested some of the more technical and scientific activities we undertake, and a great opportunity for those that can commit to projects like this for the longer term. In the semi-arid region that Brookfield is located in, environmental conditions are so variable that it takes a long time to understand the implications of management action.

A reminder as to why native vegetation is so important – because wombats love native grasses, especially Austrostipa species, which are the equivalent of ice cream to them! Stef Williams from the Friends of Brookfield Conservation Park explains: “Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats tend not venture too far from their burrows when looking for food but lately, the native grasses have been scarce. Therefore the wombats are having to use more energy to go searching. If a wombat has already lost condition through lack of suitable food, this can mean the loss of particularly young and older individuals. Our task is to increase native grasses not just in the Park but across the landscape so we can have a healthy population of these animals in the Mallee regions of South Australia.”

This is a critical project as we have seen the consequences of unhealthy wombats in the Mallee. The funds that donors have contributed have been vital in the implementation of the exclosures and will continue to be essential to the success of the project. We are at the beginning of a critical conservation activity that relies on both funds and volunteer support and, as such, we are so very grateful for your ongoing support.

Key Volunteers - Stef and Joe
Key Volunteers - Stef and Joe
Monitoring Wombat Warrens
Monitoring Wombat Warrens

Links:

Feb 4, 2015

Bandicoot Numbers are Growing!

Eastern Barred Bandicoot
Eastern Barred Bandicoot

It was a busy end to the year with our last trapping session taking place in the last week of November, before the hot summer months.  We were expecting to catch a few more bandicoots, and to allow for this, we increased our staff numbers to assist. This meant instead of running 3 sections to clear all the traps, we ran 5 sections, which allowed us to release the animals as quickly as possible back into their grasslands. Trapping is an essential part of the program - it helps us to check on the number of bandicoots (and sometimes other species!), monitor breeding success and carry out health checks. The traps are specially designed to catch the animals safely and without harm, and we love releasing them back to freedom afterwards.

Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Project Officer, Travis Scicchitano reports: “Last time we trapped at Woodlands Historic Park it took us two trap sessions over two weeks to get the fantastic number of 56 individual bandicoots caught on site.  This time around it only took us 4 days to catch 57 individual bandicoots!  We beat our record, and what an effort - luckily we had the extra help as we caught bandicoots all over the site.  We captured a nice balance of sexes with 30 males and 27 females.  Five of the females were carrying a total of 6 pouch young, and 17 more females showed signs of young recently vacating the pouch. This means there must be quite a few new animals out there ready to be caught at our next monitoring session. We are estimating that there are around 150 bandicoots calling Woodlands home, which is brilliant.”

We have found, however, that there was an increase in possums caught - 205 to be exact!  According to Travis, “Due to the large amount of possums in our traps when monitoring the bandicoots, new trap designs are being trialled. Not only do we catch a large number of brush tailed possums but they also set off traps externally without getting caught. This significantly reduces our chances of catching our target species, which means we can't gather the much needed data on breeding and numbers within Woodlands. We’re currently running smaller traps with modified entrances of various sizes to see what size hole is small enough to deter possum entry and allow bandicoots to enter. Every night traps are set with the doors secured open to allow animals in and out.  We are using our same bait mixture for normal monitoring for consistency. Then the cameras are turned on to record from 9pm to 5.30am. On average we are getting around 100 videos a night. Here are some examples of our videos - Bandicoot and Curious Possum.”

So far we have found that possums are very good at getting into small spaces but the good news is we are getting closer by slowly reducing the trap’s entrance size daily.  This is allows the bandicoots to get in, but becomes a real struggle for the possums. Travis says, “In saying this, we know possums are still going to interfere with the traps and set them off occasionally, but if we can stop catching them that would be great. This will at least eliminate the need to release them, which can be tricky and also very time consuming to clean the traps.  It will also speed up our monitoring sessions and give us a greater percentage of traps to catch our bandicoots improving our data and research greatly.”

Once again, a huge thanks to everyone involved from Conservation Volunteers Australia, Parks Victoria, volunteers, donors and all members of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team who have assisted with making this possible.

We hope to bring you more videos over the coming updates, so stay tuned!

Health checks
Health checks
Volunteers checking the traps
Volunteers checking the traps

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