Arid Recovery is arid smart

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The outback is a land of extremes. Temperatures vary throughout the year, with some nights being icy cold to a point of freezing, yet in summer the heat can be sweltering with temperatures above 40ºC for weeks. There is no average season and rain can fall sporadically at any time. With an average rainfall of 166mm per year, Roxby Downs and surrounding areas are not typically thought of as ideal locations for growing plants.

This Sunday the 29th of September the ‘Arid Smart Garden Expo’ will be hosted at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. Focusing on the benefits of native plants, the garden expo will feature gardening advice for native flora, native tours and children’s activities.

Arid Recovery will be attending the event. We will have a focus on the native vegetation of the Roxby Downs region, and incorporate the birds and animals of Arid Recovery and how they may use those plants. A children’s activity stall will be set up with an opportunity for kids to create a colourful collage of all things arid related!

“The Arid Lands Botanic Garden is a fantastic opportunity for people to develop an understanding of the plants that grow within the arid zone,” explains Arid Recovery Education and Community Officer Anni Walsh. “The outback region of South Australia covers almost 80% of the state’s land area, therefore arid zone plants make up a significant portion of the flora found within the state.”

Situated 250km south of Roxby Downs, the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden showcases an array of flora specific to the arid zone and outback regions. The 250ha site features flora unique to a variety of arid zone habitats, including sand dune, woodland and shrub land. A whole range of grasses, forbs, shrubs, trees and wildflowers from a variety of genus’ can be viewed at the site.

If you would like to learn more about arid specific flora, or enjoy a stroll through beautiful native gardens, then a visit to the Arid Lands Botanic Garden is a must!

For further information on the plants of Roxby Downs and Arid Recovery email education@aridrecovery.org.au  

Summer Intership Applications Now Open

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Arid Recovery is a unique arid zone conservation project based near Roxby Downs.  The fenced reserve spans approximately 123km2. Feral cats, foxes and rabbits have been eradicated from half of the area, into which several species of locally extinct species have been successfully reintroduced.

 

Arid Recovery is seeking applications from highly motivated and resourceful interns. The Arid Recovery Internship program operates over 14 months, with interns required to work following periods:

  • This Summer - December 2013 through to February 2014
  • 3 non-consecutive weeks throughout the year (during University holiday periods or other negotiated times)
  • Next Summer - December 2014 through to February 2015

Objectives of the intern program include:

  • Feral control and reserve maintenance conducted on a regular basis
  • Trapping of native threatened marsupials, in particular assisting with the bettong external release project
  • Involvement in the organisation and operation of the annual small vertebrate trapping program
  • Coordination and control of Buffel Grass and other weeds of significance within the Roxby Downs region

Eligible applicants must:  

  • Currently be completing the second year of a three year study program, or third year of a four year study program
  • Have a current drivers licence and be willing to undertake 4WD training
  • It is desirable that applicants have some experience with ethical handling of animals
  • Be physically fit and willing to undertake labour intensive tasks
  • Capable in the use of maps and GPS for navigation
  • Be willing to commit to living in Roxby Downs (SA) for three months over two consecutive summers, and return to undertake three weeks of field work throughout the year

 

Benefits: Return transport from Adelaide to Roxby Downs (additional transport from other capital cities may be negotiated), on-site accommodation and modest stipend to cover food and incidentals.

 

Applications: must include a CV and one page letter addressing the position criteria which can be found at www.aridrecovery.org.au.  Applications and any queries can be forwarded to Arid Recovery, PO Box 147, Roxby Downs, 5727 or education@aridrecovery.org.au or phone (08) 8671 8282.

Applications close 5pm Monday 30th September 2013

Hands on education excites and enlightens

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Biodiversity is essential for human existence, providing many goods and services to create a healthy environment, such as clean air and fresh water. It is vital that we all do our bit to help the environment, however sometimes we need a little reminder.

Arid Recovery takes great pride in educating school groups on the importance of biodiversity and conservation. The educational work that we do at AR is a step towards securing environmental awareness for generations to come.

This week we had students from Port Lincoln High School visit the Arid Recovery Reserve. The group of five students arrived late Monday afternoon, just in time to set some cage traps as the sun was going down. It was then time for dinner and bed before the early morning start at 4:30am to check the cage traps. The students were delighted as they had successfully trapped bettongs, Stick-nest Rats and bandicoots!

During the day students participated in various hands-on workshops to give them an idea of the monitoring, maintenance and research work that the team at Arid Recovery undertake on a daily basis. These workshops compliment the students’ studies towards a Certificate I in Conservation Land Management. Participating in track identification on the sand dunes, navigating their way around using a map and a GPS, and joining Ecologist Cat Lynch on a walk to discuss the common plants of the region were just some of the activities that kept the kids busy.

Education and Community Officer Anni Walsh demonstrates Elliott trapping 

“Educational visits like this are incredibly beneficial for students. Not only do they get to experience what it is like to be an ecologist working in the arid zone by learning tracks and flora, they also get to experience a variety of different species using various trapping methods,” explains Education and Community Officer Anni Walsh. “It’s a real thrill for the kids to hold a small dragon, or see a Western Barred Bandicoot with joeys in her pouch, and gives a further appreciation of the unique natural wonders of the arid zone.”

The satisfaction of completing 100m of fencing in the hot sun, and not getting lost during the GPS scavenger hunt where up there with some of the memorable moments of the trip.  However, the students all agreed that despite the early start, the cage trapping was easily the highlight of their trip. Our cute and furry threatened species have again captured the hearts of those fortunate to work with them!

Hooray for National Threatened Species Day

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Saturday the 7th of September is National Threatened Species Day, an opportunity to reflect on the success stories and ongoing threatened species recovery work are also celebrated nationwide, learn about the devastating species losses across Australia, and to encourage the community to prevent further extinctions of Australia's fauna and flora. 

As we all know, threatened species are an important component of biodiversity and need to be conserved with precious care, as once they become extinct they are sadly gone forever. Threatened Species Day is held each year to commemorate the death of the last remaining Tasmanian tiger at Hobart Zoo in 1936. Arid Recovery thought that now would be the perfect opportunity to share with you the overall success that we’ve had with some of our threatened species.

At least 27 species of native mammal once inhabited the Roxby Downs region, but over 60% have become locally or completely extinct since European settlement. Some bird species have also declined and many plant species are now rare in the region. Arid Recovery aims to restore as much of the original fauna and flora as possible, through natural re-establishment and planned re-introductions. Our Big Four threatened species; Burrowing Bettongs, Greater Stick-nest Rats, Greater Bilbies and Western Barred Bandicoots, now call the protected area inside the Arid Recovery fence their home, and can go about their business without a worry in the world!

We often mention our busy bettongs or the elusive bilby, so we thought it’s time to shine the spotlight on our other inhabitants, the Greater Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus conditor) and the Western Barred Bandicoot (Perameles bougainville). These cute little critters are valuable assets to Arid Recovery, as wild populations for both species are extinct on the mainland, and now only exist on small island populations off the coast of Australia. Reintroduced to Arid Recovery in 1998 (Greater Stick-nest Rat) and 2001 (Western Barred Bandicoot) both are unique in their own special way.

As its name suggests, the Greater Stick-nest Rat builds its home from a nest of sticks and branches dragged to the site in the rat’s mouth. Larger branches are gnawed down to a manageable size and added to the nest. The sleeping sites within the nest contain soft vegetation and grass. They feed mainly on leaves and fruit of succulent plants, such as blue bush and salt bush and occasionally on seeds and insects. Since their initial reintroduction populations have boomed! It is now estimated that there is over 670 Greater Stick-nest Rats within the Reserve. The success of this reintroduction has contributed to the Greater Stick-nest Rat’s national status being downgraded from endangered to vulnerable.

The Western Barred Bandicoot is the smallest of the bandicoots and weighs up to 250g. It uses its strong hind legs to dig below the ground to forage for insects, spiders and worms. It also eats seeds, roots, and other smaller animals, and can detect food up to 30cm underground. The Western Barred Bandicoot has one of the shortest gestation periods of all mammals of 12.5 days and will have two or sometimes three joeys are at a time. The Arid Recovery population of Western Barred Bandicoots has rocketed to an astonishing estimate of 350 individuals!

The Greater Stick Nest Rat and Western Barred Bandicoot are just two of many unique native species that are under threat due to habitat destruction and the invasion of non-native species. 

Although we would love to save every animal, we here at Arid Recovery are doing our bit to protect and conserve the species at home in the arid zone. If you would like to help the conservation of threatened species you can volunteer your time or make a generous donation on the Arid Recovery website.

Hooray for National Threatened Species Day

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Saturday the 7th of September is National Threatened Species Day, an opportunity to reflect on the devastation of species loss across Australia, and to encourage the community to prevent further extinctions of Australia's fauna and flora. Species success stories and ongoing threatened species recovery work are also celebrated nationwide.

As we all know, threatened species are an important component of biodiversity and need to be conserved with precious care, as once they become extinct they are sadly gone forever. Threatened Species Day is held each year to commemorate the death of the last remaining Tasmanian tiger at Hobart Zoo in 1936. Arid Recovery thought that now would be the perfect opportunity to share with you the overall success that we’ve had with some of our threatened species.

At least 27 species of native mammal once inhabited the Roxby Downs region, but over 60% have become locally or completely extinct since European settlement. Some bird species have also declined and many plant species are now rare in the region. Arid Recovery aims to restore as much of the original fauna and flora as possible, through natural re-establishment and planned re-introductions. Our Big Four threatened species now call the protected area inside the Arid Recovery fence their home, and can go about their business without a worry in the world!

We often mention our busy bettongs or the elusive bilby, so we thought it’s time to shine the spotlight on our other inhabitants, the Greater Stick-nest Rat Leporillus conditor and the Western Barred Bandicoot Perameles bougainville. These cute little critters are valuable assets to Arid Recovery, as wild populations for both species are extinct on the mainland, and now only exist on small island populations off the coast of Australia. Reintroduced to Arid Recovery in 1998 (Greater Stick-nest Rat) and 2001 (Western Barred Bandicoot) both are unique in their own special way.

As its name suggests, the Greater Stick-nest Rat builds its home from a nest of sticks and branches dragged to the site in the rat’s mouth. Larger branches are gnawed down to a manageable size and added to the nest. The sleeping sites within the nest contain soft vegetation and grass. They feed mainly on leaves and fruit of succulent plants, such as blue bush and salt bush and occasionally on seeds and insects. Since their initial reintroduction populations have boomed! It is now estimated that there is over 670 Greater Stick-nest Rats within the Reserve. The success of this reintroduction has contributed to the Greater Stick-nest Rat’s national status being downgraded from endangered to vulnerable.

The Western Barred Bandicoot is the smallest of the bandicoots and weighs up to 250g. It uses its strong hind legs to dig below the ground to forage for insects, spiders and worms. It also eats seeds, roots, and other smaller animals, and can detect food up to 30cm underground. The Western Barred Bandicoot has one of the shortest gestation periods of all mammals of 12.5 days and will have two or sometimes three joeys are at a time. The Arid Recovery population of Western Barred Bandicoots has rocketed to an astonishing estimate of 350 individuals!

The Greater Stick Nest Rat and Western Barred Bandicoot are just two of many unique native species that are under threat due to habitat destruction and the invasion of non-native species.

Although we would love to save every animal, we here at Arid Recovery are doing our bit to protect and conserve the species at home in the arid zone. If you would like to help the conservation of threatened species you can volunteer your time or make a generous donation on the Arid Recovery website.    

PhD Opportunity

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why is the fence so floppy?

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

As spring approaches, the weather is starting to heat up and the wild winds that come through the Roxby region start to blow. When we think of wind here we think of the flipping floppy top! It is easy to get carried away by the science that underpins all Arid Recovery operations, but let’s get back to basics and investigate why the Arid Recovery fence is so floppy.

For those of you who have seen the unique fence design that surrounds the Arid Recovery Reserve you will have noticed that the fence has a “floppy top”. This floppy top is very important to ensure the integrity of the Reserve, as Arid Recovery remains one of the largest feral free areas in Australia’s arid zone.

The feral proof fence is vital to the survival of the re-introduced mammals within the Reserve. The Greater Bilby, Burrowing Bettong, Western Barred Bandicoot and the Greater Stick Nest Rat all rely on the fence for protection from predation by feral cats and foxes, and also competition with rabbits for food and shelter.

As you now know, Arid Recovery’s fence is designed to keep feral cats and foxes out, and this is where the floppy top comes in. If you are standing on the outside of the reserve, looking in, the floppy top will be protruding out towards you, making a perfect obstacle for any nasty critter that decides to challenge it.

When a feral cat or a fox decides it wants to jump the fence and have a feed of succulent bandicoot, it will try to climb up and over the fence. However when the fox grabs the floppy top to try and pull itself over the fence, the floppy top “flops” down and therefore gives the fox no purchase to get into the Reserve, and hence letting the little bandicoot live his life in harmony.

Remember, the best defence is a good fence! If you want to support Arid Recovery and the maintenance of the “floppy top” fence you can volunteer your time or make a donation.

Science is alive

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It’s National Science Week and Arid Recovery has already been in the thick of things at Science Alive! in Adelaide over the weekend.

Teaching people about the wonders of science is something that we are passionate about here at Arid Recovery. It’s a part of our business of giving people a greater understanding of the arid zones plants and animals and how people can do more to assist the threatened species of Australia.

At our Science Alive! booth this year we teamed up with CEG, a registered training organisation, to show people a fantastic new app that will teach them all about the tracks and animals of Australia. It’s only in its early stages, but we’ve already used it as part of our education programs so that students can learn about the tracks of our AR Big Four before they come out to the Reserve, and also about our nasty ferals so they can help us track them through the dunes.

Science is at the core of what we do here at AR and using new technology to showcase our works is a great way to get people involved who aren’t able to visit the Reserve firsthand. It might even tempt a few people to take the big, bold leap of venturing into the Aussie outback for a trip to experience what we have to offer.

So here are a few things that you can do during Science Week:

Download the app: Race your friends and see who can be the best at identifying animal tracks. Just go to your app store and search for “CEG conservation”.

Spot a sleepy: With the warm weather we’ve been having there are plenty of sleepy lizards out and about. Take a wander in the dunes around Roxby and you are sure to see one (or probably 2 – did you know they mate for life!).

Find a field of flowers: After some winter rain we have fields of wildflowers around Roxby at the moment. Take a drive along any of the main roads and you are sure to spot Poached Egg Daisies and if you’re lucky a few Sturt Desert Peas.

Check out the Science Week website: There are plenty of things that you can do no matter where you are in Australia just go to http://www.scienceweek.net.au/get-involved/

Winter Bettong Trapping at Arid Recovery

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scott Elliott writes about his experience during the largest bettong trapping event Arid Recovery (and possibly the world!) has ever seen.

Standing at the top of a sand dune with a full moon hanging over my head, the task at hand seemed simple enough.

“Just place the bag over the end of the trap, lift the door and it should run in,” explained Arid Recovery’s ecologist, Cat Lynch.



Molly, one of AR's volunteers, looks after a small baby bettong during the winter bettong trapping at Arid Recovery
Photo by: Catherine Lynch

“It” was a feisty bettong and my job was to ensure that this furry critter made its way safely into a bag for processing back at camp.

Since the introduction of bettongs onto the Arid Recovery reserve in 1999 their numbers have exploded. In response to this, Arid Recovery is undertaking a large-scale translocation program to keep the bettong population at sustainable levels.

Back on the sand dune, my hands stubbornly refused to manipulate the trap door open, a condition of the near-freezing temperatures which engulf the reserve during winter.

With one eye on the capture bag I managed to gently coax the cantankerous bettong out of the trap and into the awaiting bag.

This operation was repeated throughout the evening in an all-night ritual of trapping, processing, resetting traps and selecting new capture sites. The bait of choice for this assignment was the trusty peanut butter sandwich however these delicacies also proved alluring to the resident populations of bilbies and western barred bandicoots.
All animals were returned to the central camp building, affectionately known as “The Atco”. Here they are weighed, measured and tagged pending their release onto Stuart Creek Station – about 20 kms north from the main Arid Recovery reserve.

An average night was delivering around 40 bettongs and large numbers of bilbies, bandicoots and the occasional stick-nest rat.

Students and volunteers from Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Roxby Downs all made the trip out to the reserve to assist with the trapping program, braving the winter chill.

Few things can prepare you for the brisk arrival of nightfall during wintertime at Arid Recovery. However this winter has delivered unseasonable rains to the reserve providing a rich blanket of annual flowering plants – dotting tones of yellow and white across the landscape.

At the end of a busy week, I leave the reserve with a sense of accomplishment and look forward to future work with Arid Recovery.


See more images of our volunteers and bettongs on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AridRecovery

Tracking the tracks in the sand

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The rich red sands of the Roxby Downs area are a photographers dream, providing contrasting with a vivid blue sky or melding into one of those well-known rich outback sunsets.  They are also the perfect tool for monitoring the movements of all who live within the Arid Recovery reserve.

Every three months the staff head out as the sun rises, trekking across kilometres of sand dunes counting the numbers of animal tracks crossing the drag line established the afternoon before.  Not only must the number of tracks crossing the drag be counted but also who made them including bettongs, bilbies, stick- nest rats, western barred bandicoots for our feral free sections and rabbits and cats in our Red Lake Expansion and Dingo Pen. 

The Arid Recovery track transects were established in 1999/2000 after the reintroduction of the Stick-nest Rat, Burrowing Bettong and Bilby. Initially, the species were monitored using radio collars but after 6 months the collars were removed. Initial attempts to monitor all species using cage and large Elliott trapping found that trapping was time consuming and many animals were trap shy.  Trapping also did not sample species consistently with burrowing bettong lining up to get into traps and bilbies avoiding them like the plague. The dunes at Arid Recovery have soft orange dune crests which are perfect for recording track imprints. All reintroduced mammal species at Arid Recovery could be identified by their distinctive tracks making track transects an ideal way of monitoring post release changes in distribution and relative abundance.

Helen Crisp shows Tyson Brown how to measure bibly tracks. Photo by: Kylie Piper

We established 10km of walking track transects in the Main Exclosure which were sampled on the morning after a windy day and calm night. The wind blew away the old tracks so that only fresh tracks were recorded. Later a quad bike was used to drag a bar and chain over the dunes to obliterate old tracks.  This made things easier as it meant we didn’t have to wait for a windy day to do our sampling!  Transects were conducted up to 4 times each year and the number of tracks of each species were recorded per kilometre. Later, we extended the transects to include the first and northern expansion as animals were reintroduced into those areas.  Recently, we have also included measurements of bilby tracks along transects to determine population demographics and breeding events at the time of sampling.

Although track transects do not result in a population estimate they are extremely useful for determining fluctuations in abundance, relative abundance of different species and population spread across the reserve. They can also be calibrated to population estimates derived through capture mark recapture and removal studies.  Transects have the added advantage of also recording any feral animal tracks, allowing for swift removal of any incursions. The transects have now been sampled for over 10 years and I am currently analysing long term trends as part of my PhD. I am comparing distribution and abundance of tracks with post-release factors such as rainfall, time since release and temperature. Results will help determine the most effective reintroduction strategies for each species and increase our understanding of the dynamics of pre-European arid zone mammal fauna.  

Identifying animal tracks isn’t always easy for beginners but here is what we are looking out for:

Burrowing Bettongs have two large hind feet and move in a hopping motion, leaving footprints similar to a kangaroo.  Often you will see the mark of their tail dragging in the sand behind them.

Greater Stick-nest Rats have small footprints similar to those of a cat with a central pad surrounded by four smaller pads for their toes.

Greater Bilbies have large toenails on their hind feet which leave a distinct drag mark in the sand as they hop.

Western- barred Bandicoot hind feet leave an odd sideways V shaped print as they scamper along.


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