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Help Protect Endangered Bandicoots

by Conservation Volunteers Australia
Help Protect Endangered Bandicoots
Help Protect Endangered Bandicoots
Help Protect Endangered Bandicoots
Help Protect Endangered Bandicoots
Help Protect Endangered Bandicoots
Help Protect Endangered Bandicoots
Help Protect Endangered Bandicoots
Help Protect Endangered Bandicoots

It’s been a year of challenges and positives in threatened species recovery at Woodlands Historic Park. The biggest challenge we currently face is the reduction in grasslands habitat at Woodlands, which has come from various fronts.  It has been a very dry year, especially in the last six months, where we’ve only had three decent rainfall events during that period.  This type of grassland is classified as summer growing, so without that extra rain the plants have stagnated.  On top of that, grazing pressure within the site has continued.  Without the rain the kangaroos, possums and rabbits have severely reduced the height of the grasses, which is the preferred nesting area of the bandicoot.

Ultimately this impacts the available habitat for bandicoots and causes a reduction in their numbers.  The Eastern Barred Bandicoot breeds to their conditions, only producing offspring when there is enough food and available nesting areas.  Thankfully we have plenty of food for the bandicoot, but without suitable grasslands, we have seen a population reduction.  This, however, is not seen as a negative as it shows they are naturally adapting to the environment.  On the positive side, during our last monitoring session the animals were all in good health and were caught from all areas across the entire site. As soon as we see an improvement in the habitat the bandicoots will react swiftly and increase their population.

To further assist with the health of the grasslands, our volunteers have been tackling a major weed onsite, the serrated tussock. This is an invasive grass species of significance in Victoria.  Our teams managed to spray over 100 hectares, which frees up space for the native grasses to grow.  They have also mapped and destroyed small rabbit warrens over the same area.  This mapping was then used to follow up with heavy machinery to destroy the larger warren systems, which has made a significant dent in the rabbit population.  Volunteers have also been busy continuing with our regular fence patrols and maintenance, revegetation, monitoring surveys, bait ball making and track maintenance.   

With the recent addition of Philip Island alongside our Woodlands and Hamilton locations, we are working for a common goal through the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Teams plans.  The goal is to have 2,500 bandicoots in total across all sites to secure genetic diversity for the species.  Currently we are half way towards our target with around 1,200 animals across all three sites.  There are more sites being constructed and we hope to achieve our goal by around 2020.  This will be a huge achievement as it will bring the bandicoot down from extinct in the wild to critically endangered. It doesn’t mean our job is done but achieves our first goal on this long road to recovery, and means we are heading in the right direction towards securing a future for the bandicoot.

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As the dry hot summer has now pushed into autumn, rainfall events have been very few and far between.  This is having a detrimental effect on our grasslands at Woodlands Historical Park.  Even though this is nature and out of our control, we’re hoping to receive some soon. Naturally we go through drought periods and the bandicoots do adapt. But with grazing pressure also happening within the reserve this has become a combined effort and reduced our grass habitat cover. 

During our recent monitoring, we were expecting fewer bandicoots to be caught as the animals adjust their breeding based on the conditions available, which were not favourable given the lack of rain.  There is still plenty of natural food available just not the adequate grass habitat to commence large breeding rates.  Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Project Officer Travis Scicchitano reports: “Our aim for this round of monitoring was to see the health of the bandicoots, not so much the numbers. We were please to find 45 animals that were captured and released - 28 male and 17 female. Over half of these were in fact 24 were cleanskins (caught for the first time). This indicates that the bandicoots are still breeding and turning over new stock despite the current conditions.  Also, they were caught in all areas of the reserve, which was a positive outcome. Most importantly the animals were in good condition so hopefully they have got through the hardest part of this long summer and look forward to some rain over the cooler months.” Check out one of our bandicoot release videos – they are fast!

 It was a tough monitoring program in Hamilton this round as the original dates had to be cancelled due to a bushfire. Travis explains, “The bushfire was moving in the direction of the reserve the week before, so no chances were taken and we postponed the monitoring for two weeks once the fire had been put out.  Fortunately, at no stage was the reserve under threat due to excellent fire management plans and protection. We appreciate the efforts of all the staff and volunteers who had to reschedule their time under such short notice.”    

Once monitoring commenced, it was great to see that Hamilton’s bandicoots are continuing to grow in numbers and all are passing their health checks. Travis says, “40 bandicoots were caught and processed and all doing very well.  We now estimate the population to be around 80 - 100 and hoping this will increase up to 150 by the end of the year. So, bring on the rain to improve breeding conditions and we look forward to providing updates throughout the year.”

As always, would like to thank our supporters, volunteers and very generous GlobalGiving donors. Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to continue engaging the community in local conservation efforts. Further donations are definitely appreciated, and will help us to continue to make a difference for our endangered native species.

Volunteers releasing bandicoot after health check
Volunteers releasing bandicoot after health check

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Happy New Year - we hope you had a great holiday season! We are looking forward to another year of bandicoot conservation and bringing you updates on our progress across our three reserves - Woodlands Historic Park, Hamilton and the new site at Philip Island.

We are in the midst of a very hot summer period here in Victoria.  We’ve had a couple of rainfall events but nothing consistent, which means it’s been quite dry on average.  This provides many challenges when looking after our bandicoot reserves. Ensuring fire breaks are maintained is extremely important as fire could lead to a major catastrophe.  To help reduce this risk and keep our bandicoots safe, part of our fire management plan includes reducing fuel around the reserves and inside the fire breaks.

This time of year also gives us an opportunity to remove many weed species that compete with our native grasslands and our volunteers have been a fantastic help with such a large task. Fence maintenance checks and repairs are also completed during this period to ensure we are well prepared ahead of the winter months.  

Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Project Officer, Travis Scicchitano reports: “At Woodlands we have been lucky to have a Green Army team assisting us on site.  This team of nine members has been learning all about conservation from their supervisor, through educational training and practical hands-on experience. They have done an amazing job and we’re grateful for their help and enthusiasm.  Over 70 hectares of serrated tussock have been sprayed.  This is a noxious weed grass that can take over the native species. They have also built two, one-hectare exclusion fence plots. These keep the rabbits and kangaroos out, which gives the vegetation a chance to return. The team has also planted around 10,000 native grasses and wild flowers. The wild flowers are very small at the moment, but come winter and spring there is going to be a beautiful burst of colour.  With the help of our volunteers, they have all made a significant contribution in protecting and enhancing the rare grasslands and bandicoot habitat.”

In December last year, we relocated six bandicoots (five male and one female) to the new reserve on Phillip Island, bringing the total to 67. Travis says: “Recent monitoring has shown the bandicoots to be thriving in their new home, with signs of digging and movement across the entire site. There is also evidence of breeding on-site and we’re all excited to see the new population growing so quickly!”. Stay tuned for further updates in our next report as we enter into our monitoring season.

It has been a great start to the year and we would like to thank our generous GlobalGiving donors for their continued support. Big thanks also goes to everyone involved from Conservation Volunteers Australia, Parks Victoria and all members of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team who have assisted with making this possible.

Grassland plantings
Grassland plantings
Summertime at Woodlands
Summertime at Woodlands

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We have just completed our spring monitoring in Hamilton, and once again the site is looking fantastic due to good winter and spring rainfall. Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Project Officer, Travis Scicchitano reports: “Our spotlighting produced numbers of more than 30 individuals in only an hour, which is a great indication that our bandicoots are thriving. The local community are invited to these events and it’s such a thrill to see them engaged and excited about their local marsupial recovery.  All the animals passed their health checks easily and all the females had pouch young, ranging in size from little ‘jelly beans’ to fully furred critters.  If they didn’t have babies they all had teats that showed signs of lactation, which means they were rearing babies nearby in the nest.  It was an excellent result and no doubt our individual count has gone up significantly.”

Woodlands Historical Park monitoring took place in mid-October.  Woodlands received under average rainfall this season that reduced the quality of the grassland habitat.  Travis explains: “The Eastern Barred Bandicoot breeds to the conditions available so it has the ability to very quickly increase or decrease its breeding, making for a healthier population.  Fortunately, we only witnessed a small drop in numbers during this round of monitoring. We also had veterinarians set up for this event to assist in health checks and a few blood tests (yes even bandicoots get blood tests!). The vets gave all the animals a clear bill of health – great news for the species!”

We are also very excited to announce that we now have a brand-new home for bandicoots at Phillip Island! Phillip Island is located 140 km (87 mi) south-southeast of Melbourne, Victoria, with an area of about 100 km2 (40 sq mi). This site is managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks who are part of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot recovery team.  The Island is now fox free and has become the first island to assist in threatened species recovery.  Check out the video from our friends at Zoos Victoria, documenting the largest release of Eastern Barred Bandicoots ever!

Even though it is not on the mainland of Australia, Phillip Island will provide invaluable numbers to assist in the overall recovery of the bandicoots.  Woodlands played a pivotal role in this first release of bandicoots. There were 44 bandicoots released in total into the new site – 10 from Woodlands (5 male and 5 female), 11 from Zoos Victoria and 23 from Chrurchill Island, which is an offshoot to Phillip Island. Travis says, “we hope they all enjoy their new home and start breeding to increase the population.  This event is also a significant showcase in how agencies can all come together to achieve an amazing result.  Well done and thank you to the entire Easter Barred Bandicoot Recovery team.”

We’d like to say thank you to our very generous GlobalGiving donors again for your ongoing support. It has been an incredibly successful year, with significant steps made towards securing a future for the Eastern Barred Bandicoot. We look forward to updating you on our progress in 2018.

Released after health checks complete
Released after health checks complete

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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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Conservation Volunteers Australia

Location: Mount Pleasant, Victoria - Australia
Website:
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Twitter: @CVAustralia
Project Leader:
Madeline Townsend
Mt Helen, Vic Australia
$7,590 raised of $25,000 goal
 
179 donations
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