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Million dollar view tree change

It's probably the first time you've seen a chainsaw featured in the pages of habitat and, this time, it's a positive story. Everglades, a National Trust-owned property in the Blue Mountains is now home to nesting boxes carved into a dead tree. It's prime real estate for possums, bats, birds and other native critters who rely on safe havens to survive.

Arborists using a chainsaw fasttracked the natural process in the bush when tree hollows are formed by limbs dropping from trees, creating a hole in the tree trunk or limb. Over time (sometimes more than 100 years), these holes become larger and eventually form tree hollows.

As Everglades manager Guy Mcllraith explains, land clearing and urbanisation has led to a shortage of hollows across the Greater Sydney area, meaning there are fewer havens for small animals to shelter, hide from predators, breed and raise their young. In fact, of the 174 native animal species in NSW which rely on tree hollows, 40 are listed as threatened.

"Because tree hollows are becoming increasingly rare and their formation slow, it is very important to retain habitat trees, so when this big gum tree died it was an opportunity to provide a safe haven for some of the small animals who live at Everglades,"says Guy.

Three artificial nest hollows were carved for birds in the upper limbs and trunk and two openings for bats in the lower portion. The arborists first sliced off a 'faceplate' before using new chainsaw techniques to carve habitat chambers into the tree branches and trunk. The final step was to reattach the faceplate to protect the resident animals which enter the readymade homes through custom-designed slits and holes.

Birds can still perch on the remaining branches while hollow-dependent animals such as Crimson Rosellas, Southern Boobook Owls, Owlet-nightjars, Eastern Rosellas and Chocolate Wattled Bats can move into the new hollows. The habitat tree came about through a grant from the Greater Sydney Local Land Services.

Dogs are now nature's best friend

A new study has found that dogs can greatly aid conservation efforts in finding rare species by smelling out their poo. Emma Bennett, a Monash University PhD candidate, is evaluating the effectiveness of a volunteer dog handling program in the Great Otway National Park. We think that this is a great example of citizen science.

"Dogs have been trained to find evidence of the elusive and endangered Tiger Quoll by finding where they go to the toilet/' says Emma. "Tiger Quolls were only rediscovered in 2012 in the Great Otway National Park as they're camera shy, and have a home range of about 500 hectares, so opportunistic sightings are rare--for humans, at least."

By analysing the DNA in the Tiger Quolls' scats you can find information about their sex, diet and distribution. The other benefit of using the trained dogs is that they provide a non-invasive, low stress alternative to trapping.

"What I'm really excited about with this program is to demonstrate that volunteers who are passionate about the environment can actually train their dogs on a particular scent, and go out as a group of citizens in science and collect additional data for scientists that would be hard to come by otherwise."

Ms Bennett hopes the study will raise awareness about the role volunteer dog handling programs play in conservation efforts.

"The results of this study will be essential in forming guidelines for volunteer dog handling programs. While the study is focused on dogs detecting the Tiger Quoll, it can certainly be expanded to other threatened species."
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Title Annotation:tree hollows, dogs in wildlife conservation
Publication:Habitat Australia
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2018
Words:597
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