With the unpredictable heat during the summer months (December to February) we’re unable to conduct full scale monitoring of the bandicoots. Instead, we use this period to concentrate on our grassland health and research programs.
Invasive weeds are a real threat to the grasslands at Woodlands Historical Park, and our volunteers have been very busy removing artichoke thistle. This invasive weed species takes up vital grassland space due to its huge seed load and potential to take over large areas very quickly by out competing the native grasses. Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Project Officer, Travis, reports: “It's a long battle starting in October and going through to January as the thistles spread their seeds in late January and February. It's a challenge in the heat cutting them back down to ground level and applying herbicide to remove them. They are also very prickly, so well done to everyone involved as the bandicoots will appreciate having more grass habitat to build nests in.”
After many nights researching new trap designs, we have chosen the trap for future Woodlands monitoring. A new trap design was needed due to the high rate of bycatch when monitoring bandicoots. Travis explains, “We catch a large number of brushtail possums as they are active earlier than the bandicoots and get to the traps first. Whilst we catch many, the possums are also known for setting off the traps, which limits our ability to capture bandicoots. The new design has a new door inserted into the trap with a smaller hole built in. This allows us to still remove the bandicoot for handling whilst reducing possum entry. Possums are very creative and can get into very tight spaces so we can't keep them all out, especially the smaller ones, but the new design will help. Overall it will hopefully give us a greater chance at targeting the bandicoots during the monitoring season.”
We currently run around 230 traps at Woodlands covering 23 kilometres, and each one of those traps will need to be replaced. This will be quite costly but a very important changeover, and your donations will make a huge difference. Thank you very much for your continued support as every dollar helps!
We look forward to breaking some more monitoring records and keeping you up-to-date with our progress throughout the year.
Spring has seen our second monitoring round completed at both Woodlands Historic Park and Hamilton Community Parklands, with some outstanding results.
We completed seven days of trapping (and releasing!) on both sites, with a total of 1,280 traps checked, 2,000 bait balls made to attract the bandicoots and 110 kilometres walked very early in the morning in search of our furry friends. It’s been a huge undertaking but the results have made it more than worthwhile – records were broken everywhere!
Firstly to our Woodlands results. Thankfully with the warmer weather our grass habitat has started to return after the wet winter. This has proved vital for the bandicoot’s breeding conditions, which showed in the overall numbers. Project Officer, Travis, reports “Our previous record was 114 individuals caught, and amazingly we surpassed that with 132 individuals found! We also found that 65 of those individuals were new born and bred on site, and had never been caught before. This shows a great new breeding cycle has taken place, and a new influx of juvenile animals are on the ground to take the breeding and population growth even further over the next few years. Out of all the females caught 94% showed signs of breeding, including 93 pouch young. It looks like there will be plenty of summer babies this year. We hope they all do well and look forward to monitoring them next autumn. Check out this short video of a volunteer releasing a bandicoot after its health check.
Hamilton has also produced fantastic results. Earlier this year 20 bandicoots were released on site to start off the program. Monitoring such low numbers can be like finding a needle in a haystack, however, we managed to capture 15 individuals from the original release. Travis says “This is wonderful news as it shows that Hamilton is in perfect condition for both habitat and food sources for the bandicoots. All the animals processed were in good health and they are being found all over the site. We are also now very proud parents in Hamilton with five new bandicoot babies born and bred on site. As per Woodlands, all the females we caught had pouch young so the population is well on the way to expanding and boosting the overall total of bandicoots in Victoria.”
With these excellent results, it really has been a great end to the monitoring year. There have been many challenges throughout the year, but with the generous support from donors and the invaluable assistance from volunteers, these resilient, wonderful, creatures can be brought back from the brink of extinction!
Once again thank you to everyone involved from, our dedicated volunteers, our very generous GlobalGiving donors, Parks Victoria and all members of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team who have assisted with making this possible. We look forward to keeping you up-to-date on our bandicoot friends in 2017!
Mother Nature has been very kind this past 3 months with plenty of rain falling on the Murray Mallee and in particular Brookfield Conservation Park. This has encouraged the growth of the much favoured native grasses for the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat – the Park is looking pretty good!
Funds generously donated recently enabled volunteers to undertake maintenance on the grassland exclosures and collect data on the browsing pressure on existing vegetation. We are discovering from this site and older exclosures that this is a long term program – it appears that we need to wait a minimum of two years for any of the seeds to germinate and then the vegetation needs to be monitored. One of the many benefits of undertaking projects like these at Brookfield is our long term presence here and the commitment of long term volunteers.
A major coup is the successful collaborative grant – Ecology and Management of the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat. Alongside the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the state government and others, Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) will be part of this project that will develop a comprehensive understanding of the interactions between Southern Hairy-nosed wombats and environmental conditions, and evaluate innovative spatial technologies for long-term species conservation in the light of changing climate and socio-economic pressures. Our volunteers will play a significant role in assisting researchers with the collection of this priority data. Regional Manager, Tricia, reports “We recently hosted students from Waldorf Willunga High who surveyed the active wombat warrens, set up remote sensor cameras and trialled using a drone over the park to collect footage – a very exciting time for us all!”
So far with your support, we have been able to implement our weed strategy program, preventing further outbreaks of toxic weeds that were affecting the nutritional balance of the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat. Ingestion of these toxic weeds was affecting the wombat’s kidneys and liver, leading to emaciation and death. We’re pleased to report we have had no new outbreaks. This is a time to celebrate but also a time to ensure our implementation plan is adhered to – our next step is to schedule regular events to keep on top of the weeds and ensure no new outbreaks occur. It also means that we are able to look beyond this health issue and implement other positive programs, ensuring the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat population at Brookfield stays healthy, despite its fragmentation from other populations. We are also trialling new ways to prevent over grazing of native vegetation and supporting wombat research.
As the year comes to a close, we thank you again for your ongoing support and generosity. We hope you have a happy and safe holiday season, and look forward to keeping you up-to-date on our wombats in 2017.