Threatened species get a helping hand from landscape boards
09 September 2022
Habitat loss, feral predators, bushfires, climate change – South Australia’s native animals have faced plenty of challenges, and sadly some are no longer with us. But it’s not all bad news when it comes to threatened species. Around the state, landscape boards are helping to protect and preserve our fauna, whether they’re furry or feathered, scaly or submerged.
Gudgeon reintroduction – Murraylands and Riverland
The southern purple-spotted gudgeon is a small endangered fish that has really been doing it tough. It is found through the Murray-Darling Basin but has significantly declined in numbers and is presumed extinct in the wild in South Australia.
Thanks to the hard work of several organisations and community members, insurance populations of these iconic fish have been bred to ensure that this species is not lost entirely. Recently, members of the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board’s wetlands team worked with Aquasave - Nature Glenelg Trust, Urrbrae Agricultural High School and Alberton Primary School to translocate 210 endangered southern purple-spotted gudgeon into the Greenlands wetland near Murray Bridge.
Warru bounce back in Everards – Alinytjara Wilurara
Rare wallabies are roaming the rocky outcrops of the Everard Ranges for the first time in 60 years, following an intensive week of trapping and translocation in the remote Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in north-western South Australia.
Warru, also known as the black-flanked rock wallaby (Petrogale lateralis centralis), are one of the most endangered mammal species in South Australia. The species was on the brink of extinction just 15 years ago, when a recovery project was established with the aim of restoring the species in its natural habitat.
In August, the Warru Recovery Team set out to trap warru in the northern APY Lands. The warru were to be released about 100km further south to establish a new population in the spectacular Everard Ranges.
Warru were taken from a predator-proof fenced area built by warru rangers called the Pintji, a haven for captive-bred animals where they acclimatise to life in the wild, free of the threat of foxes and feral cats. Traps were also set at nearby “New Well”, a wild population where warru have been surviving among feral predators outside of the safety of the fence. Sourcing animals from the two areas provides genetic diversity for the new population, as well as including individuals who have experienced the threat posed by cats and foxes.
Radio tracking in the days following the initial translocation confirmed all 40 of the new arrivals had remained in the area. This was an encouraging sign as it is important for the solitary animals to be able to find each other and breed successfully.
The Warru Recovery Team is comprised of Traditional Owners, Anangu Warru Rangers, APY Land Management, staff from the Alinytjara Wilurara Landscape Board, Zoos SA and independent scientists
Supported by the AW Landscape Board with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
Return of the Idnya – South Australian Arid Lands
Having been extinct in the northern Flinders for almost a century, 25 Idnya (Western quolls) were released into Vulkathunha Gammon Ranges National Park in April this year.
The 18 female and seven male quolls were welcomed back to country by Adnyamathanha traditional owners, after being translocated from the reintroduced population at Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.
Radio collared and monitored at regular intervals, six Idnya moved out of detection range or transmission failed, and others dropped collars after just 17 days. Since then the collars, which were attached with a thread and designed to drop off, have dropped off most of the reintroduced Idnya, none with signs of predation. Many have been re-trapped and have maintained or put on weight since release.
Evidence of mating occurred in May to July this year, with re-trapped females now carrying pouch young, which will remain there for 60 days before being denned around late August to early October. Fully weaned by 4-5 months, they are expected to disperse in late November and early December.
The Idnya translocation to Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park was supported by the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, Department for Environment and Water and the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered (FAME).
Bandicoot superhighway – Hills & Fleurieu
In the Hills and Fleurieu region, the community-led Bandicoot Superhighway Project is seeking to reduce the extinction risk of the Endangered (EPBC Act) southern brown bandicoot.
The long-term goal of the project is to ensure an ecologically functional ‘Superhighway’ of habitat throughout the Mount Lofty Ranges. Recognising that maintaining habitat and increasing connectivity of habitat for bandicoots is just one component of several required actions for bandicoot recovery, this project encompasses a broad suite of recovery interventions to increase the project's chances of success.
Southern brown bandicoots are robust and compact marsupials which perform an ecologically important functional role in the maintenance of our native vegetation. They contribute to soil ecosystem processes, with each individual turning over approximately four tonnes of soil in search of food per year, and likewise distribute important mycorrhizae fungi that support numerous plant species. Their small digging pits and spoil piles also help provide an environment for the germination of native plants.
Project partners are collaborating to undertake a variety of tasks including:
- increasing the area of available habitat through community planting days and corporate planting events;
- increasing regional survey and monitoring capacity through community education and awareness raising;
- working with government partners to foster the use of ecological burns to maintain and improve habitat quality;
- undertaking careful weed control to keep habitat healthy and fencing of remnant vegetation to remove grazing pressure;
- and trialling bandicoot translocations as a recovery tool to expand the species’ area of occupancy and extent of occurrence.
Visit www.landscape.sa.gov.au/hf/bandicootsuperhighwayfor more information.
Project partners include the Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board, Sturt Upper Reaches Landcare Group, Department for Environment and Water, Green Adelaide, University of Adelaide, Friends of Parks, Nature Conservation Society of SA and private landholders. Funding for this project is provided by the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.
Winter flocks and summer chicks – Eyre Peninsula
Hooded plovers (Thinornis cucullatus) are a shy beach-nesting bird that the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board has been monitoring and implementing interventions for, in a bid to improve the nesting success of this species which is one of Australia’s top 20 threatened birds.
The EP Landscape Board team was thrilled to spot a flock of 20 of these threatened birds – a mix of juveniles and adults – at a lower Eyre Peninsula inland lake area this winter while undertaking surveys to find out more about their winter habits.
From late August through to April, Board officers and BirdLife Australia volunteers monitor the hoodies as they pair up and nest on Eyre Peninsula’s beaches – which can get quite busy with visitors during the summer. These birds and their chicks are particularly vulnerable as their nests are little more than a scrape in the sand – leaving them exposed to predators and hard to see for human visitors – and the chicks can’t fly until they are 35 days old.
Last summer the Eyre Peninsula saw one of its best breeding seasons yet for local hoodies. This included triplets on a beach where interventions included feral cat and fox control; and leaving dog leads for local dog walkers to borrow to help keep these animals away from the vulnerable birds.
The Eyre Peninsula monitoring and intervention work is undertaken in partnership with BirdLife Australia, and is part of the EP Landscape Board’s Saltmarsh Threat Abatement and Recovery Project funded by the Australian Government.
Pink is the new blue for little lizards – Northern and Yorke
There’s a special little lizard that’s now only found in SA’s Northern and Yorke region. In fact, the species was once thought extinct but was rediscovered by accident in the 1990s in the belly of a brown snake killed on the road between Burra and Morgan.
It’s the pygmy bluetongue lizard (Tiliqua adelaidensis), which actually has a pink tongue, and is listed as endangered nationally and in South Australia. It was previously also found across the Adelaide Plains.
The problem for these lizards, which live in holes abandoned by trapdoor spiders, is that their native grassland habitat is declining. They need healthy grasses that shelter and protect them and clear spaces between tussocks to hunt for insects.
With funding from the Australian Government, through the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board is leading a project to help protect critical pygmy bluetongue lizard habitat.
The Board is working with five private landholders in the northern parts of the region to improve patches of native grassland through rotational grazing, a farming method that helps to maintain healthy grasses and inter-tussock spaces. Limiting insecticide use and soil disturbance like ploughing or ripping is also helpful for these little critters and their homes in the ground.
Dunnarts and arts puns – Kangaroo Island
Just when we thought we couldn’t get more excited about the KI dunnart… 2022 happened!
At the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board (KILB), it has been an Amazing Year for our KI Dunnart Project. It appears the KI dunnart is persisting well in a landscape that is still recovering from bushfire as we are observing them at more sites, more often and earlier than at any other time.
Our knowledge of the mysterious KI dunnart has improved dramatically in the past few months through a very successful radio-tracking study in May – June with the results completely blowing everyone’s minds! The re-survey results so far indicate a positive outlook for the KI dunnart with an increased reoccurrence rate on our motion activated cameras, an encouraging sign that they are flourishing at these locations, as well as appearing at many new sites which were previously burnt.
Some individual dunnarts were successfully fitted with radio collars, with the new data giving us valuable new insights into preferred den locations, home ranges, behaviours and a snapshot into the social lives of multiple dunnarts. The radio collars weigh a tiny one gram and consist of a collar containing a tiny radio tracker and a battery within an epoxy case, and a trailing antenna. All collared dunnarts were male and they were named Albert Namatjira, George Gittoes and Banjo Paterson, after Australians who have ‘dunn-art’. These fellas were hand tracked daily to find out where they were denning, with cameras set up at these locations to capture footage of their comings and goings.
The feral cat management team are successfully applying new technologies to more efficiently knock down the unwanted predators in the western end of the island, giving vulnerable native wildlife a fighting chance.
The KILB will carry on working closely with our project partners, as well as volunteers and many private landholders across the island.