Aug 17, 2017

Creating Healthy Habitat for Bandicoot

Over the last few months we have continued our conservation activities to bring back from extinction the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, at our two sites in Woodlands and Hamilton. It was great to report last month on our monitoring results, which showed healthy populations across both sites, however, without habitat for the bandicoots our population numbers would decline.

The volcanic plains network of grasslands, which stretch from Melbourne in a westerly direction to the South Australian border, is one of the rarest vegetation communities in the world. With only approximately 0.5% remaining, it’s understandable as to why the bandicoots are also threatened. During the mid-1800's, Victoria was being settled and farming was commencing. This volcanic soil that the grasslands grow on was the most nutritious for growing pasture grass and vegetables. It was also very easy to clear, with burning the easy choice, rather than clearing large forests that took a long time to create farmable land.  As a result, these grasslands disappeared very quickly straining many small wildlife species and also making them more exposed and vulnerable to predators such as foxes (once they were introduced).

At both Woodlands and Hamilton, we are busy running programs to assist in the health of the grasslands. Around 1,000 seedlings including 7 different species of wild flowers are due to be planted over the next month.  This will be fantastic as we are dramatically improving the biodiversity of the grasslands.  To assist with this large-scale planting project, we have been fortunate to secure the services of Green Army teams. These are six month training programs for young Australian's to learn about the environment and put into practice their new found knowledge. The teams will also assist with weed control, an important task to support smaller grasses that easily become outcompeted by larger introduced species.  Controlling and eliminating grazing pressure from rabbits is another major task being undertaken. Flexible 10m long inspection cameras are sent down the burrow systems to check if there are any bandicoots inside before collapsing the rabbit burrows.

In addition to these projects, our volunteers continue their diligent fence patrols and maintenance to keep our main predator, the fox, on the outside of our properties.  Check out how brazen this fox is on the video as it happily runs alongside the car and the fence line. It is a challenging time of year with a lot more fox activity as the females are coming into breeding season and last year’s young are looking to create their own home.

We’d like to say a big thanks to our Green Army teams, project partners and countless volunteers who come out and give us a hand protecting these rare grasslands that house our beautiful bandicoots. We’d also like to give a heartfelt thank you to our Global Giving donors - your generous and ongoing support is invaluable to our efforts to protect the bandicoots.

Please consider donating or sharing our story with your family and friends – with your support, together we can safeguard the survival of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot and their habitat.

Volunteers maintaining the predator-proof fence
Volunteers maintaining the predator-proof fence

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Aug 14, 2017

Preparing to Reintroduce Locally Extinct Wildlife

Although the rain set in early, making it a long cold winter, our volunteers and teams have been as busy as ever.

Over the past few months our volunteers have helped construct another seven trap grids in preparation for the spring trapping program – that’s 70 more buckets and ¼ mile of drift fencing. In total we have now set up 39 monitoring sites, dug in nearly 400 pitfall buckets and erected over 1.25 miles of drift fencing.

With our project partner, FAUNA Research Alliance, we assembled a small group of research scientist to evaluate the progress of the project and start planning for the reintroduction of animals. Everyone was happy with the progress thus far, and excitingly, we have set some dates to reintroduce threatened wildlife into our predator-proof properties!

We are planning to conduct our first experimental release in spring 2018. This reintroduction will involve soil engineers; animals that excavate the soil searching for subterranean food like the Brush-tailed Bettong (pictured below), Western Barred Bandicoot or Burrowing Bettong. Then in spring 2019, we aim to reintroduce some of the native predator species missing from the landscape, like the Western Quoll (pictured) and Red-tailed Phascogale. The aim is to, in time, reintroduce all the native species required to restore a fully functioning ecosystem.

Prior to reintroducing the locally extinct, nationally endangered species, we need to ensure that our predator proof fence is up to standard and will keep the important wildlife in and the invasive, introduced predators out. With the help of over 80 volunteers we have commenced the monumental task of checking, repairing and upgrading the seven miles of predator proof fencing. To date we have checked and repaired ½ a mile.

Although we are making progress, work is slowed by a lack of resources. Before reintroductions begin we must have the facilities and capacity to acquire, house and breed these rare native animals. To achieve this we need to repair and upgrade not only our external predator-proof fences, but our wildlife housing and captive breeding infrastructure as well. To make this happen we need your support to buy rolls of wire, netting, fence pins, posts and screws! Please consider donating again or sharing our story with family and friends to help us secure these resources, and take the next steps to reintroducing our threatened wildlife.

We’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to all our amazing supporters and donors! Without your support we cannot continue this critical project and help conserve Australia’s weird, wonderful and highly threatened native wildlife.

Brush-tailed Bettong
Brush-tailed Bettong
Western Quoll
Western Quoll
Volunteers maintaining the predator-proof fence
Volunteers maintaining the predator-proof fence
Checking and repairing half a mile of fence
Checking and repairing half a mile of fence
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!
 
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