Camp out with the Bettongs!

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

Looking for something different to do these school holidays than camping in the backyard or local caravan park?  Why not spend a night camping out at the Arid Recovery Reserve, with the chance of getting up close and personal to our bettongs while you are at it!

Arid Recovery is holding a two week trapping event from the 1st- 12th of July and welcome tourists to stay a night at the Reserve and play a hands-on role in the conservation of a threatened species.  Visitors will be able to assist with every step of the trapping process, from bait making, and trap setting through to processing and the release of the animals.

A regular day would see visitors arrive mid-afternoon to the Arid Recovery Reserve for an introduction to the project and to set up camp.  Then it is off to set traps with a special mix of peanut butter and oats, a smell that bettongs cannot resist!  Before the sun rises everyone bundles into their vehicles to check the traps and remove any captured animals.  Back at base camp animals are processed and visitors are encouraged to take part, learning exactly what we are doing and getting up close and personal to these cute creatures.  A quick stop for coffee and then it is off to release the bettongs into their new burrows within the Reserve.

“There aren’t too many places like this that offer the chance or people to play a hands-on role in conservation,” says Volunteer and Community Coordinator Hannah Spronk.  “If we can give people the opportunity to be involved in our project, we can help to increase awareness about the threats our native wildlife are facing.”

Prices for visitors start from just $70 per night for a family, with powered camping and basic bunk accommodation available.  All visitors will receive a complimentary one year Arid Recovery membership.  Places are limited so get in quick to book your spot. 

Please call (08) 8671 2402 or email volunteer@aridrecovery.org.au

They eat what?!

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

The arid zone has lost approximately 60% of its small mammal population, and while although cannot be put down entirely to the fault of just one animal, it would be fair to say that feral cats have played a significant role.  So, just exactly how much and what do they eat?

Since 1997, Arid Recovery has undertaken feral control for rabbits, cats and foxes.  A number of soft jaw leg hold traps are situated around the external perimeter of the Arid Recovery Reserve in an attempt to ease the pressure on the fence.  These traps, along with nocturnal spotlighting and baiting programs, provide us with an estimate of feral cats in the area and help to reduce the impacts they may have in the near vicinity of our Reserve.  Each cat that has been caught, is humanely euthanized by a trained and licenced staff member or volunteer.  Later the cat is dissected to examine its stomach contents. 

In the 15 years of Arid Recovery over 1455 cats have been dissected, finding more than 3203 animals in their stomach contents.  This includes 1204 insects, 1390 mammals, 97 birds and 512 reptiles.  This averages out to approximately 2 small animals for every feral cat!

It is estimated the feral cat population of Australia is currently around the 15 million mark, and if each of these cats are eating 2 small animals each, that is 30 million individuals we lose EVERY DAY! 

The annual small mammal and reptile trapping undertaken by Arid Recovery each year clearly indicates the impacts feral cats (and foxes) have on native wildlife, trapping 6 times more small mammals inside the feral free Reserve, than outside.

The photo below depicts a cat euthanised in the early days of Arid Recovery.  Its stomach contains:

  • 24 painted dragons
  • 3 bearded dragons
  • 3 striped skinks
  • 2 earless dragons
  • 1 mouse
  • 1 zebra finch

The animals were predominantly undigested, which shows that this was all prey caught in the last 24 hours.  Thirty four animals died to fill the belly of one feral cat, how many more before we make a national effort to put a stop to it?

 

 

Experience the Reserve after dark!

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

You often hear the Arid Recovery staff speaking of their cheeky burrowing bettongs and their elusive bilbies, but have you ever actually seen one?  Arid Recovery is offering Roxby Downs locals the opportunity to see these threatened species and help to raise money for the Roxby Downs Community Postie Bash.

 

The evening of Saturday April 28th, Arid Recovery is inviting you to take a look at what goes on behind the fence after dark.  Usually receiving tourists on their sunset tours, Volunteer and Community Coordinator, Hannah Spronk, thought it was time that locals had the opportunity to experience some of the native wildlife.

With so many new people coming to town Arid Recovery thought it would be great for them to meet some of the critters we are always talking about.  The staff have decided to enter a team called the Crash Bandicoots into the local Community Postie Bash and thought this event would be something different as a fundraiser for the local community.

The Arid Recovery gate will be opened for arrivals from 4:30pm- 5pm with the night wrapping up by approximately 9pm.  Entry is just $10 and children under 12 are free.

Visitors will be able to take a tour through different vegetation types, making their way to the viewing platform to enjoy an outback sunset.

As it becomes dark the reserve begins to come alive, with critters climbing out from their homes.  Visitors will have the opportunity to take part in a spotlight walk to the nocturnal hide where they will have the opportunity to spot the burrowing bettongs, hopping mice and even a shy bilby!

Visitors will need to wear enclosed shoes and long pants.  A water bottle and torch will be handy and a keen eye is a must.  A sausage sizzle will be available on the night for a gold coin.  All proceeds will go towards the Roxby Downs Postie Bash raising money for youth and health services.  For more information or to register your interest call (08) 8671 8282.

Kids club goes bettong spotting

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

Getting the kids off the couch and out of the house these holidays was the Arid Recovery Kids Club with a night of Bettong spotting last night.  A group of 30 children between the ages of 5 and 12 trekked out to the Arid Recovery Reserve last night to learn a little bit more about the animals and plants of the arid zone.

First up was a nature trail, taking them through some of the different types of habitat we have at Arid Recovery, through stands of mulga trees that can live for hundreds and hundreds of years, and the mistletoe birds that have a very quick digestive system!  Children learnt to tell the difference between a bettong and a bilby track and that a saltbush isn’t called so just because it can tolerate high salt levels, it also tastes salty too.

(Some of the Kids Club members on their sunset nature trail.)

After a sausage sizzle there were squeals of excitement, and a few of horror and surprise, as the bettongs began to emerge in search of some food.  Although many children had visited the Reserve previously on school excursions and knew plenty about our cheeky little bettongs, it was the first time many had seen one in the flesh.

Armed with torches, it was time to take to the dunes on a nocturnal spotlight tour.  Although we tried very hard to keep quiet, unfortunately we must have been a little too loud and scared off the elusive bilbies before we could see them.  Some were lucky enough to spot a stick- nest rat as he bumbled away from the torches, there were even a few who spotted a couple of hopping mice before they quickly bounced off into the bushes.

Anyone taking out an Arid Recovery family membership will automatically have all children included in the Arid Recovery Kids Club.  Membership of the Kids Club includes copies of Maccas Newsletter, free invitations to events and discounted birthday parties and more.  If you would like to join up your children please call the Arid Recovery office on 08 8671 8282 for more information.

Bettongs and bilbies moving house

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

The effort to ensure our control is kept clear of not only feral cats, foxes and rabbits but bilbies and bettongs too continues.  Acting as a ‘control’ the second expansion is an area where we have minimised the number of variables (such as feral and native species) that might be impacting.  We can then compare data collected from here to other areas inside and outside the reserve.

Although feral proof, our cheeky bettongs and bilbies have managed to sneak their way in to the second expansion and make themselves at home.  Compared to other areas within the reserve their population numbers are low, but we are still working hard to maintain the integrity of our control and remove all reintroduced species from there.  Field Officer Anni Walsh has had the task of coordinating the ongoing trapping effort, experimenting with different techniques to determine the most successful.

We are well aware that our bettongs love the smell of peanut butter and will happily wander into a cage trap in the pursuit of peanut butter goodness.  But our bilbies are a little more difficult.  Earlier in the year our interns utilised burrow traps, targeting areas where there was known bilby activity.  In an attempt to utilise the particularly inquisitive nature of our bettongs, a trial one way gate was installed, in the hope that they would use this to remove themselves from the second expansion to other areas of the reserve. 

Surprisingly we got lucky, and caught footage with our remote cameras of a bilby investigating this new contraption installed near his home.  As can be seen from the photographs below, he almost goes through with it, getting half way into the one way gate before becoming shy and retreating.  Night after night, our footage has shown the same bilby returning but unfortunately never following through and crossing over to the other side of the fence.  So, the quest to clear all bettongs and bilbies from the second expansion continues!

 

The bilby checking out the one way gate (circled in red on the left).

Although he got himself halfway in, he unfortunately turned around and didn't go through.

Easter Bilbies Preparations

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

We all know Easter is just around the corner and Easter Bilby has been working hard at the Arid Recovery Reserve, preparing for his big weekend of chocolate egg deliveries ahead! 

Although there is some debate as to exactly where and when the concept of Easter Bilby originated, the business name was registered in 1991 by the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia.  Whilst many of the children of Roxby Downs will now happily tell you the difference between a feral rabbit and a native endangered bilby, we want to spread the message further.  For years now Australians have made Christmas their own, donning shorts rather than scarves and decorating a branch of eucalypt, it is now time to do the same for our Easter.

Rabbits first came to Australia with the First Fleet with 24 rabbits released on the mainland at a property near Geelong in 1859.  These rabbits of course spread quickly to cover the landscape.  In just 18 months one pair of rabbits can turn into 184, displaying their exponential breeding and giving rise to the saying “breeding like rabbits”.  Unfortunately these huge numbers have decimated areas of Australia, causing vegetation loss, soil degradation and most likely contributing to the local extinctions of some species, including the Greater Bilby.

By celebrating Easter in Australia with an Easter Bilby rather than Bunny, we hope to raise awareness of the devastating impacts feral rabbits have had across the country and the plight of our endangered Greater Bilby.  So this Easter rather than chomping down on a chocolate bunny, how about purchasing a chocolate Easter Bilby? Sales of chocolate bilbies from Darrell Lea help to support the Save the Bilby bund and chocolate bilbies purchased from Haigh’s support the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia. 

Support the Arid Recovery bilbies and the fight for an arid zone free of rabbits by adopting a bilby from the Reserve.  A special offer available until Friday 6th, for just $50 you can adopt a bilby from the Arid Recovery Reserve and receive an adoption certificate, complimentary one year membership and a small plush bilby toy.  Check out the Get Involved tab on our website to adopt.

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Can dingoes save our threatened native species?

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

In late January we raised a few hackles with an update on our dingo study and the role they play in the arid zone.  We ended up with a mix of opinions from pastoralists and conservationists from far and wide.  Now we raise the question, can the dingo save our native species?

Some scientists believe that dingoes play a role in protecting native species and restoring the balance of our ecosystem.  It has been found that in some areas where dingoes are found, threatened species are still surviving, giving rise to the theory that dingoes play a part in protecting some threatened native species.

It is assumed that in these areas where small populations of threatened species are existing with dingo populations, that there are also feral species such as cats and foxes, which are being kept under control by the higher order predator, the dingo.  The introduction of feral cat and fox predators has meant the small mammal population has taken a beating, being prime easy prey compared to species such as kangaroos which have now reached very high numbers in some areas.

We would like to hear what you think.  Can dingoes save a native species?  Are there any other solutions out there to help us protect our threatened and endangered Aussie critters?

Click on the photo below to follow the story by the ABC recently covering this topic.

Bilby Trapping

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

In the first week of February the Arid Recovery Internship students participated in targeting Bilbies for relocation from the second expansion to other areas of the reserve. Generally Bilbies are rather trap shy, and don’t often go for the peanut butter bait balls set in cage traps that are more appropriated for the eager and social Bettongs.

The interns traipsed through sand dunes on the hunt for Bilby burrows, keeping a keen eye for signs of Bilby tracks and diggings. Once a Bilby burrow was located it was time for some manual labour, with the burrow traps needing to be dug deep into the burrow to ensure a secure capture.

Photo 1: Intern Anni digging in a burrow trap.

 

The following morning the interns got up bright and early to check the burrow traps before the sun had risen, hopeful that the traps were a success! Wondering around in the dark, guided by a GPS and the light of their head torch, the interns found their burrow traps with a timid Bilby tucked away in the corner. “Discovering a Bilby in a burrow trap is incredibly rewarding, they don’t often go for traps, so to find one is a big deal!” exclaims Arid Recovery intern Katy Read, “It’s a great rush to know that the burrow trap has been a success!”

 

Photo 2: Intern Katy placing a burrow trap.

 

Over a three day trapping period a total of two Bilbies and three Bettongs (who often share burrows with the Bilbies), where captured in the burrow traps. Arid Recovery intern student Anni Walsh quotes, “We’ve really honed in on our skills of identifying Bilby traps and suitable active burrows, its great!”

 

Photo 3:  The finished product- a burrow trap ready to go.

How to become a scientist

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

The Arid Recovery Reserve is buzzing with the launch of a new bettong behavioural study- and you can be involved!  There is a scientist within us all and we would like to give all our volunteers, members, tourists and school children a chance to be involved in the science we undertake.

Anyone lucky enough to have been out to the reserve and had the chance to see our threatened Burrowing Bettong will know they are quite social creatures.  We at Arid Recovery want to find out more about the interactions between Burrowing Bettongs and what it all means and this is where you come in. 

As part of the project a number of individuals will be marked with coloured ear tags so that tourists and others visiting the reserve in the late evening will be able to identify individuals and how they interact with one another.  Burrowing Bettongs will also be radio collared, offering educational groups to the reserve the unique opportunity to radio track a real animal, finding out where they hide during the day and who they are living with.

“This project is going to provide everyone, particularly the local community, with a fantastic opportunity to be involved in science.  Hopefully it might get people asking a few more questions about the world around them and increase their involvement,” quotes Hannah Spronk, Volunteer and Community Coordinator.

The project has been kick started with some generous funding through the Optus Regional Community Grants.  “Thanks to the Optus Regional Community Grants we will be able to start this project off on the right foot,” agrees Hannah.

For more information on the Burrowing Bettong Behavioural Project or to find out how you can be involved contact the office on (08) 8671 8282 or email volunteer@aridrecovery.org.au

Baby Bilby for Christmas!

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014
There are a number of successful bilby breeding programs around Australia, working hard to replenish the low population.  Perth Zoo is one of these and has just had their first successful breeding of the bilby for 2011.

Bilbies are opportunistic breeders, meaning they will only breed when the conditions are optimum, and in their natural environment in the harsh arid zone of Australia, those opportunities might be few and far between!  Once a substantial food supply has been established, bilbies will mate, with some mating sessions lasting up to 18 hours.

The foetus that is produced develops quite quickly and approximately two weeks after mating a bean sized newborn will manage to squirm into its mothers pouch.  This newborn will spend up to three months inside the pouch, developing and feeding.  After initially leaving the pouch, it is not likely to young bilby will re-enter the pouch.  We call this stage “at foot”.

Don’t worry, they aren’t left to fend for themselves yet.  Mother bilbies are able to produce two types of milk, one for the small newborn living inside the pouch, and another type for the young bilby that is at foot.

For more information on the bilby born at the Perth Zoo and to see a film after he has left the pouch, click on the link here.

Or why not adopt your own bilby for Xmas!

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Arid recovery is a conservation initiative supported by:
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adelaide university