May 18, 2017

Analysing DNA in Hair Follicles

Beautiful day at Brookfield
Beautiful day at Brookfield

Brookfield Conservation Park recently had the privilege of hosting a team of researchers from the USA and Australia. This program was supported by the generosity of our Global Giving donors, providing funds to cover some of the costs for accommodation. A huge thank you to all of you!

Researcher Faith, PhD, Director of Genetics, Bat Ecology & Genetics Lab, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, pioneered a method of collecting the hair of wombats as they leave their burrows and analysing the DNA in hair follicles to discover information about how many wombats there are, and their relationships to each other and where they go.

It is 16 years since Faith did her original work and she made a special trip from Arizona in the USA to South Australia, in April, to repeat her study with fellow Australian researchers and others. The aim is to find out if some of her original wombats are alive and whether the numbers of wombats have changed. This is important information, especially given the change in the ecology of the area, and will help guide the management of the Brookfield Conservation Park.

Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Regional Manager, Tricia Curtis explains, “Faith selected some warrens that had our existing camera traps set up so we can increase the information gathered for this study, by viewing photos of the wombats she collected hair samples from. This is a great task for our Brookfield volunteers to view and document camera trap data.”

The team of researchers secured enough funds to undertake the data collection at Brookfield and to analyse a small amount of that data. They now need to secure additional funds to complete the laboratory work, which will take a technical expert working over several months. Tricia says “We are hoping we can assist with this to ensure we get the much needed information to complete the picture.” Please consider donating again if you can or sharing our story to help us raise these vital funds to ensure the wombat’s ongoing survival.

The following series of photos below, captured on our new remote sensor cameras, tells the story of the successful collection of hair samples, along with an inquisitive kangaroo! We were also privileged to capture this short video of a wombat mum with a joey in her pouch. From the size of the pouch, the joey would be about 6 months old.

First day of site set up
First day of site set up
Installing hair tape
Installing hair tape
Nothing captured yet...
Nothing captured yet...
Success! Hair sample captured
Success! Hair sample captured
Resident Kangaroo!
Resident Kangaroo!
May 18, 2017

Restoring Habitat and the Great Cocky Count!

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo in flight
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo in flight

Over the past few months, our volunteers have been busy rehabilitating the black cockatoo habitat across Perth, and preparing sites for major re-vegetation projects. Since March, over 140 volunteers have helped to remove an amazing 2.7 hectares of invasive weed species from bush land areas such as Allen Park, Shenton Park, Bibra Lake and reserves along the Swan Estuary. These sites provide habitat critical to the Carnabys Black Cockatoo and the Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo.

In early April, our teams took part in the Great Cocky Count for the fifth year running! This is a citizen science project developed by Birdlife Australia where bird enthusiasts, the conservation oriented and keen community volunteers band together every year to count the comings and goings of cockatoos from known roosting sites at twilight. The result is a snapshot of Carnabys and Forest Red-tailed populations across Perth and the South West, providing valuable long-term data that assists with ongoing management of these beautiful birds.

We are continuing our rehabilitation efforts at The Orchard, near the Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre. 28 volunteers assisted with 42 hours of weed removal, which was further supported by students during our school holiday program who helped map out the vegetation. Volunteers were also treated to a walk-and-talk tour at the Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre, and got to meet several Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, including cheeky Fluffbum and affectionate Betty in the interactive enclosure.

On the 24th & 27th April, our Training Coordinator, Richard McDowell, visited volunteer teams at Lesmurdie Falls National Park and Yule Brook, both significant sites for feeding and roosting black cockatoos. Richard showed the team how to identify invasive weed species to effectively contribute to restoration and rehabilitation in these areas.  

As winter approaches, our teams will start on re-vegetation projects that will add ecological value to remaining bushland areas.

We would like to thank our supporters, donors and our volunteers.  Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to make a difference to this important cause.  If you are able to donate again, or share our story, we would really appreciate it – every effort will help us to continue achieving these great conservation results and give these beautiful birds a better chance at coming back from the brink of extinction.

Volunteers in the interactive enclosure
Volunteers in the interactive enclosure
Richard discussing cockatoo habitat
Richard discussing cockatoo habitat
Important weeding at The Orchard
Important weeding at The Orchard

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May 18, 2017

Healthy, Happy Bandicoots!

Healthy Bandicoot!
Healthy Bandicoot!

We recently conducted our autumn round of bandicoot monitoring in Hamilton and Woodlands Historic Park, which produced a healthy snap shot of our populations across both sites.  Monitoring is a critical part of our conservation program and involves checking traps around the sites over several days.

The Hamilton site was first to be monitored in late March.  After the new population of 20 bandicoots were released a year ago, it was a great chance to see how they were travelling. Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Project Officer, Travis Scicchitano reports: “The site looked amazing, and with good rainfall over summer, the grasslands were in very good condition.  360 traps were checked over 3 nights, providing some fantastic results.  In November last year we caught and released 19 individuals, and this March we were pleased to see that number increase to 30.  Based on evidence of the catch locations, and signs of activity, we expect the population to now be between 50 to 70 bandicoots.  The animals were all in great condition and we caught our first pouch young, which was amazing. 14 of the 30 bandicoots were clean skins (haven’t been caught before), and this tells us there is plenty of breeding happening. We can’t wait until November for our next monitoring session!”  Check out one of our bandicoot release videos in Hamilton.

Monitoring at Woodlands Historic Park took place in mid-April. Approximately 900 traps were checked over 4 nights.  With under average rainfalls and a very hot summer, the conditions at Woodlands were the complete opposite to those in Hamilton.  Travis explains, “We were very keen to see the condition of the bandicoots and we didn’t expect them to breed much due to the weather.  When there’s not enough rain the ground gets very hard and it becomes difficult for the bandicoots to dig for their food. As a result, bandicoots will often stop breeding in those conditions.  To our surprise the bandicoots proved us wrong.  We caught 96 bandicoots, of which more than half of these were clean skins; 50 in total. The sex ratio of captured bandicoots continues to be male biased with 62 males and 34 females caught over the four days. Twenty four (or 71%) of the females caught had pouch young, with a total of 44 pouch young seen.” This sleepy bandicoot was so comfortable, it didn’t want to leave!

Both locations had brilliant results, and the best news was the health of the bandicoots, all of which looked in good condition alongside plenty of breeding across both sites.  A huge thank you goes out to all our supporters, donors and volunteers, without you all, none of this would be possible!

Please consider donating or sharing our story - we need your continued support to safeguard the survival of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot and their habitat.

Our bandicoots are thriving!
Our bandicoots are thriving!
Monitoring in Woodlands
Monitoring in Woodlands

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