Welcome Friends in Conservation,
This report starts on a different note – click here to view some interesting footage taken while I was on my morning patrol of the fence enclosing our precious bandicoots. It’s that time of the year again when male Eastern Grey Kangaroos will fight for breeding rights within their mob – and as you can see in the video, it’s quite a battle. I was going about my business trying to do a morning patrol around the fence perimeter, but these two boys were not interested in my schedule, and I had to wait until the battle was over to continue my patrol. We always talk about kangaroos in our safety assessment before we can start any work, ...you can now understand why! These two were around six foot tall and can certainly pack a punch and a mighty kick! So I was more than happy to wait for them to go about their business!
Now back to our bandicoots. We have just completed our spring monitoring for this year, and with the daylight hours increasing since the September equinox, the bandicoots have lost precious darkness (approx. 2-3 hrs) in which to forage, making it harder for them to be trapped. This time last year we recorded 57 individuals. This year we were hoping to record around 80 individuals – so I am very happy to share the positive news of recording 110 individuals on site this Spring. It has been a dry winter with low rainfall, so there was some concern we wouldn’t achieve these results, as the grasslands have reduced more than expected. But the Eastern Bared Bandicoot is very adaptive - as proven by these amazing numbers, passing of all their health checks and consistent overall great body condition.
These ‘hot of the press’ results also revealed a very healthy female population with more females being caught than in our past two sessions combined. Twelve of the female Eastern Barred Bandicoot’s caught revealed a total of 23 pouch young, and another 24 showed signs of recent pouch evacuation, meaning many new young are independently exploring life in Woodlands. We are proud to report that 50 ‘cleanskins’ were caught, all of which have been bred and born on site at Woodlands. The recent purchase of new microchip supplies has already been depleted – being put to good use in chipping our cleanskins. The new scanner is already being used, efficiently extracting new data and enabling us to extract vital research information promptly. The new microchips and scanner have only been made possible through the generous donations that we have received from our committed and loyal donors (click here to see the release of a newly chipped Eastern Bared Bandicoot).
Conservation Volunteers Australia’s innovative Eastern Bared Bandicoot program will continue through the busy summer months ahead. With the dryer than normal winter and spring in Victoria, and a hot summer ahead – maintaining the grasslands will become essential in ensuring the bandicoots can continue to thrive in a ‘perfect’ habitat. This maintenance of the grasslands will undoubtedly impact on the results of our next monitoring session in April 2016.
Please enjoy these results, but we still have a way to go before reaching ‘full capacity’ in our Eastern Barred Bandicoot number at Woodlands. We are certainly tracking and continuing to grow in the right direction, all due to your commitment to bringing the Eastern Bared Bandicoot back from extinction.
Once again – thank you to everyone who helps to make this program successful, including our valuable volunteers, members of the Eastern Bared Bandicoot Recovery Team, everyone involved from Conservation Volunteers Australia and Parks Victoria, but most especially our generous donors who make the program sustainable.
Travis Scicchitano, Woodlands Project Officer.
Dear Friends in Conservation,
We are delighted to report positive news on the pesky fox front – the old rickety fence has done its job – and we have been fox free for the past twelve months. The fence might not look as nice as some of the newer models around, but it’s doing the job! The addition of the floppy top, combined with regular fence patrols, is working effectively – and we are moving ahead. The floppy top fence is designed so as an excluded animal attempts to climb the overhang, it bends down and the animal will let go and fall to the ground. The floppy top then springs back to the original position, ready for another assault (view diagram). So well done to all the volunteers, who assist in the regular fence checks and repairs..
Travis Scicchitano, Woodlands Project Officer said “Records continue to be broken at Woodlands Historic Park as Eastern Barred Bandicoot numbers continue to surge. Here’s a snapshot. In November 2014, we recorded 57 bandicoots, 86 were recorded in March 2015, and an amazing 114 bandicoots were recorded in July this year – that’s a 100% increase! Even more exciting is the 46 new bandicoots, that had never been caught before – so breeding is continuing at a healthy rate as they try to fill their protected area.” As we continue to share the marvellous success of our bandicoots, we have to applaud the ladies, with recent pouch inspections revealing an astounding 94% of them showing recent signs of having released pouch young. This is shown by elongated teats and lactating teats in the pouch, meaning young bandicoots have recently vacated the pouch, old enough to search and set up their own territories.
We have some encouraging news following up on our high possum trap interference. Twenty new traps were built with new door inserts to make it more difficult for possums to enter, but still allow bandicoots to freely enter for a tasty reward. The twenty new traps were placed in a section that had recorded the highest amount of possum interference. In just one row of nine traps, past results showed an average capture of up to seven possums and two closed traps due to possum ‘playfulness’. With the trap modifications in place, the capture rates in this same row, was reduced to just one possum per day. This is such a great start. Seeing the traps in action over four days has given us vital feedback to make a few more tweaks to improve the design even more. Adding to the success of the modified traps was the capture and ability to monitor bandicoots in this zone; previously an extremely rare occurrence, even though evidence of bandicoot activity was visible. We have a very special treat for our donors, a sneak peak at two Eastern Barred Bandicoots being released after completion of their vital health checks (view Video 1) (view Video 2).
So thank you to all our supporters and your life giving donations, that are improving our monitoring techniques and making it easier and less stressful on the bandicoots. But we still need your help as more modifications are required. The new trap designs have changed the way our trap covers work. The waterproof covers are vital for our trap functionality and most importantly, in keeping our bandicoots warm and protected. Your generous donations will help purchase new covers for all the new traps once ready. We are also at the stage that microchipping and monitoring the bandicoots is essential to ensure genetic security. We desperately need to purchase more microchips, as well as a new microchip scanner. The newer scanners process and upload the data directly to the database, facilitating real time information and eliminating all chances of human data entry errors. So please keep giving, as it only improves the quality of the project and the longevity of the bandicoot’s ongoing survival.
Once again great work everyone involved from Conservation Volunteers Australia, Parks Victoria, volunteers, members of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team and our sponsors, who have assisted with making this possible.
During March this year we ran our first monitoring session since last November, and we’re excited to bring you the latest results! This latest monitoring found 86 individual Eastern Barred Bandicoots, which is up from 57 individuals caught last November. That is a huge jump in population growth with animals found right throughout the entire site.
Equally pleasing was the health of the animals. Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Project Officer, Travis Scicchitano reports: “Melbourne Zoo’s veterinary staff were based onsite conducting extra health checks and all animals were given a clean bill of health - we were told that they were in excellent condition. This means the Woodlands site is proving to be the perfect environment for our little fury friends.”
There were concerns that due to a very hot summer with lower rainfall the bandicoots may have not bred. Low rainfall results in the ground being too hard to dig and food sources may have been low, however this doesn’t seem to have been the case at the Woodlands site. There were still plenty of surface insects to eat and our bandicoots must have found them all! According to Travis, “Out of the 86 individuals found, 30 females were caught. Amazingly, 28 of those females were carrying pouch young totalling 54 - there are going to be so many new babies running around in the grassland shortly. Overall, the indication is the needs of the bandicoots are being completely fulfilled and they are able to get along naturally just the way we had planned for them. A great example of nature recovering on its own at its best, with some help from us keeping them safe from introduced predators and looking after their grasslands of course!”
With all of this success, we are still having interference with our traps from possums. Although possums are native animals, we don’t want to trap them as part of this program – our interest is in the much rarer bandicoots that need our help! Travis says, “There was an 86% closure rate of traps when checked. This was largely a result of possums getting there first and shaking the cages closed, as well as lots of possums being caught. To combat this, we have started our trials with the new traps and have had some positive results. We’ve noticed the possums getting there first and losing interest with the new door size, which has allowed our bandicoots to be caught instead. Trials are still running for the best design but we are on our way to improving our research with more effective trapping.” You can see our latest monitoring video demonstrating this.
These really are fantastic results that mean bandicoot numbers are moving rapidly forward and bringing one of our most endangered species back from the brink of extinction.
Thank you again for your support and generous donations. If you’re able to donate again or simply spread the word about this amazing species, you will be helping us to ensure the Eastern Barred Bandicoot will have a Wild Future.
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!
With such a great result in our winter trapping, we just had to get back out there and do it all again. Two weeks later we reset the traps, and to our amazement, the results the second time around were better than the first trapping.
Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Project Officer, Travis Scicchitano, reports: “We trapped for 7 days over a two week period, and across the 7 days we had 130 bandicoot captures with 56 individuals caught, 31 clean skins, 34 males, 22 females and 56 pouch young! Two females were caught with 4 pouch young. The break down for the two weeks was as follows:
The incredibly exciting news is that our numbers grew from day to day for the first time since trapping started. Also the number of new clean skin animals increased the second time around, which was fantastic.”
We have our final monitoring session for the year coming up at the end of November. According to Travis, “Due to the success of winter we will have to work even harder. Currently we need three teams to help monitor the site, but due to the large number of new animals, we are going to have to increase to five teams. This is to speed up the process so we can reduce the time in traps and send our bandicoots back on their merry way.”
In more positive news Melbourne Zoo’s veterinary team have been out testing the blood work of the bandicoots to make sure any disease is picked up on site. Travis says, “ I’m very happy to report that all results have been negative so far, which means our little friends are not only doing well in their new home, but in top shape health wise as well.“
One more bandicoot was released from the breeding program in late August, and based on these latest numbers he would have many new friends on his first night in his new home.
Our volunteers have continued their outstanding efforts, maintaining the newly planted grassland as a priority. Travis says, “With earlier than expected hot weather, combined with not much rainfall, plenty of watering is needed at the site. It’s a long task but certainly worth all the hard effort after getting the plants in.”
So once again great work 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 look forward to updating you in the New Year with our latest trapping results!
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