An exciting and innovative project aimed at protecting threatened species in the Young Shire is reaping benefits, recent monitoring results have shown.
The Squirrel Glider Project began in the Crowther district in 2010 under the former Lachlan Catchment Management Authority (CMA).
The species of gliding possum was selected because it had been recorded in the area and was sometimes brought into the local WIRES branch as a victim of barbed wire entanglement.
The Squirrel Glider is a nocturnal gliding marsupial that lives in family groups, sheltering and nesting in hollows in trees. Feeding on both plant and animal foods, it glides from tree to tree in search of nectar, pollen, manna, gum and sap from wattles and eucalypt trees, as well as insects, bird nestlings and eggs.
It is very similar in appearance to its smaller and more common cousin the Sugar Glider, but has a much bushier, black tail which is longer than the head and body combined.
The Squirrel Glider is grey in colour with a black midline extending from between the eyes to the middle of the back. A membrane down the sides of its body is extended outwards when gliding.
Plants provide food, shelter and nesting sites for Squirrel Gliders, but this relationship is mutually beneficial, with the gliders providing pollination, seed dispersal and insect control services to plants.
‘Threatened species’ are named so because the animal may become extinct if the factors that threaten their survival are not reduced or removed.
So what is this threatened species actually threatened by?
The Squirrel Glider’s main threat is habitat loss and fragmentation, particularly the loss of large old living and dead trees, and an understorey of wattles and other shrubs.
Squirrel Gliders can glide up to 70 meters, but when trees are too far apart and the gliders have to come to ground, they may be predated upon by feral and domestic cats, dogs or foxes.
Along with other nocturnal animals, Squirrel Gliders may become caught on barbed wire fences, where they suffer a slow and painful death.
The Squirrel Glider Project set out to address these threats by increasing habitat, removing barbed wire and reducing animal predation.
Hundreds of trees and shrubs have been planted, 100 nest boxes installed in trees on 10 properties, barbed wire removed from fences and feral animals controlled.
Field days and workshops for the general public as well as active engagement in the project by local residents have resulted in greater community awareness of the plight of the Squirrel Glider.
Monitoring of the project is vital to ascertain if these activities are actually making a difference to the Squirrel Glider’s survival in the Crowther area.
In 2011 the Lachlan CMA contracted Vanessa Cain, now Landcare Support Officer (LSO) with Cowra-based Mid Lachlan Landcare, to monitor sites on properties where nest boxes had been installed.
The results of regular night-time spotlighting, nest box checking using a SnakeEye micro camera and the installation of remote infrared cameras at selected boxes have been staggering.
Thirteen Squirrel Gliders have now been found in six boxes, with a further 25 boxes containing glider leaf nests with no gliders present at the time of monitoring.
An added bonus of the monitoring has been the detection of Feathertail Gliders, Yellow-footed Antechinus, Ringtail Possums and Brushtail Possums in the project area.
Young District Landcare is also supporting the project, with Landcare Support Officer Mikla Lewis assisting with monitoring and organising field days and workshops in the area.
Young’s school students are also learning about the project, with events being held this coming September to celebrate Threatened Species Day.
“We are very grateful to the many local landholders who have embraced the project, allowing us to install nest boxes on their properties and assisting us with monitoring, planting and other activities,” Mikla said.
“However, it is a reciprocal arrangement, with landholders receiving free plants and assistance in learning about the Squirrel Glider and the other species found on their properties.”
A nature trail is currently being developed at Clover Leigh Golf Club in Crowther to provide a permanent educational facility for the whole community to learn not only about the Squirrel Glider but the other native animals, plants and ecosystems in the Young Shire.
For more information about the Squirrel Glider Project, please contact Mikla on 6343 2804 or email [email protected]老域名
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