Don’t miss all those important wildlife/environment holidays – grab the latest Land for Wildlife / Garden for Wildlife Calendar. Download the 2017 Calendar and print a copy for your home or office to keep track of your comings and goings!
Land for Wildlife assisted the Batchelor Institute last week with a feral cat (Felis catus) trapping workshop, including the use of “pongo” and baits as lures, cat trap use, camera trapping and ethical considerations. The group were successful in catching one cat in their two evenings of trapping effort and managed to capture a couple of inquisitive crows on the camera traps. Good work crew!
Land for Wildlife assisted the new Green Army team at Olive Pink Botanic Garden with a trapping workshop this month. The new team leader, Minh Nguyen, will be taking the Conservation Volunteers supported group through a feral animal trapping program this round to help relieve the pressure on local native wildlife. Team members learned how to ethically trap feral Cats (Felis catus) and Spotted Turtle-doves (Streptopelia chinensis). We will keep you posted on their progress. Thanks for having us along, team!
Seeking entomologists that can identify this fun little friend for us! This golden and glorious fly was found at Newhaven Sanctuary, north-west of Alice Springs, on a recent trip by the Land for Wildlife coordinator. We think he’s pretty excellent and would love to know what he is. Feel free to forward this to friends far and wide who may be able to give us an answer.
It’s a bit chilly here at the Land for Wildlife office this morning! Frost has made for a refreshing bird bath. Stay warm Alice Springs!
Land for Wildlife and the Australian Plant Society braved the cold at the Alice Springs Show on the weekend to help give advice on planting local natives. Land for Wildlife were also selling books and talking to show-goers about a range of local conservation topics. We are now contacting potential new members to assist them with their properties and expand the network of members. Thanks to everyone that popped by the stall – we hope that you had a great time!
The European Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) was introduced to Australia for recreational hunting in 1855 and has since spread across ~76% of the continent. Foxes breed best in locations of winter rainfall and as such, do best in the southern half of NT, however they are moving northwards and are now found as far north as Tennant Creek and the Barkly region. An individual seen by Bill Low along Colonel Rose Drive in 1981 was in excellent condition, whereas one found later in 1988 near Barkley was scrawny and emaciated. While foxes are known to be in central Australia, their numbers somewhat correlate with the presence of dingoes (foxes are less prevalent when dingoes are in abundance, possibly influencing where and when foxes can hunt).
The fox scavenges and preys on anything that is available, particularly small mammals and reptiles, but occasionally insects and fruit when prey is scarce. The fox has contributed to the decline of ground-nesting birds, small mammals and reptiles. Predation by the European Red Fox is listed as a key threatening process under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999, and as such the Australian Government has implemented a Threat Abatement Plan that aims to reduce the impact of foxes. The plan includes fox control and management programs, education of land managers and dissemination of information regarding the impact of foxes in Australia.
Fox control has had mixed success around Australia. Locally, the Central Land Council and Parks and Wildlife NT was involved in the trial of specialised bait stations that deliver poison to foxes but limit access to poison for dingos. This technique had some success but further trials were postponed (2010). Other control methods include shooting, trapping, den fumigation and fencing.
Read more about foxes in the fact sheet European Red Fox.
Land for Wildlife were invited to run a workshop this morning for the new Green Army team at Olive Pink Botanic Garden (OPBG) in Alice Springs, to provide training and support for the six months of Feral Cat and Spotted Turtle-dove trapping.
The Green Army team are hosted through OPBG (a historic, well-established and active member of the Land for Wildlife program) with their delivery partner Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA). This is the third successful Green Army program hosted at OPBG, with ecological works focusing on garden bed rejuvenation, Buffel Grass removal and feral animal management to support Black-footed Rock Wallaby habitat conservation.
The current team is a crowd of nine eager participants! The Green Army team coordinator (Candice Appleby) assisted the Land for Wildlife coordinators (Jen Kreusser and Caragh Heenan) to train the Green Army in successful trap-setting methods for Feral Cats and Spotted Turtle-doves, as well as explain the ethical responsibilities for trappers. The workshop included bird identification and call monitoring, as well as a scat, track and trace survey of the Botanic Garden area. The Green Army are enthusiastic to get started on trapping and the Land for Wildlife team had a great time working with them to assist development of their feral animal management skills!
There’s a lot of talk about domestic cats on the Alice Springs Community Forum this week, where residents are voicing their opinions regarding domestic cats that are roaming into neighbouring yards. Roaming domestic cats have the ability to spray, defecate or fight on neighbouring properties, spread disease or contract disease via other cats, run the risk of being hit by a car, can contribute to the feral cat population and also hunt wildlife. But cats are not all bad – Domestic cats make great companion animals, and when managed responsibly, they can have little to no impact on the local environment. Some simple actions can greatly improve their welfare, prevent them from hunting urban wildlife, and contribute to positive neighbourly relations:
Registration: Alice Springs Town Council by-laws state that a cat at large (outside of the owner’s boundary) can be impounded. Retrieving a domestic cat can be costly, but is achievable if the cat is registered (a requirement of pet ownership in the ASTC). Registration requires cats to be desexed (prevents over-production of kittens but they also live longer on average and stray less) and microchipped (helps authorities identify you as the pet owner if your cat accidentally gets trapped).
Containment: Even well-fed cats kill wildlife because of their hunting instinct. Placing bells on the collar to prevent an individual from hunting has limited effectiveness and so containment is the only effective action. Preventing cats from roaming also gives them a longer life expectancy, due to a reduction in injury-related death. Domestic cats are adaptable and can be kept indoors or in outdoor enclosures without detriment to their happiness, as shown by personality tests from the Cat Tracker program (http://www.discoverycircle.org.au/projects/cat-tracker/). Owners of older cats have no need to be concerned about changing the habits of their pet cats – the adjustment can be made gradually by keeping it inside for longer and longer periods of time. Owners are encouraged to provide their feline friends with a stimulating indoors environment, including somewhere to sharpen their claws. It is vital to give your cat lots of attention and play time and provide places to look out the window, lounge, play, and scratch.
Outdoor cat enclosures: Making use of enclosed areas outside, such as cat runs, can allow domestic cats to experience foreign smells and sunshine. You may like to consider enclosing part of your verandah.
Harnesses: If you want your cat to experience the outdoors you can train your cat to go outside on a harness and leash.
Land for Wildlife Central Australia had great success with the domestic cat monitoring program in 2015-2016, helping domestic cat owners of Alice Springs to identify roaming patterns and travel distances of their cats. Stay posted for the findings of the study!
Ciccone seems to be the place to be for Galahs (Eolophus roseicapillus) this week! Huge numbers were seen resting on power lines over the last few days. Galahs exhibit flocking behaviour and congregate at communal roost sites, frequently establishing near regular watering points and food sources; and with populations increasing markedly following successful young rearing.
Galahs are occasionally pests, causing damage to infrastructure (electricity cables etc), grasses and crops; primarily due to their habit of chewing for bill maintenance and habitually digging for juicy roots for moisture. There is a risk that they compete with other non-invasive species across the landscape for food resources or nest hollows. Large populations of Galahs are seen as a symptom of general ecological disturbance – exploding in numbers as a consequence of human alteration of the land (such as the construction of artificial environments like cereal crops) or good breeding season with high survival rates in young.
Natural habitats can be restored to increase the presence of mature hollow-bearing trees and minimise effects of high population numbers – but it takes time. Get outside on some of these lovely sunny mornings and get planting some native endemic trees and shrubs! Check out our Vegetation Types webpage to work out which trees are right for you (http://wildlife.lowecol.com.au/about/garden-for-wildlife/vegetation-maps/). It’s also wise to keep in mind that uncovered seed (chook food and pet bird seed) will encourage Galahs and this can be prevented by limiting access of such food supply to wild vertebrates.
Because Galahs are so common in urban environments, we often overlook their ecological significance. Galahs have an important role in the ecosystem as they act as native seed dispersers, tree pruners (they’re excellent at reducing the numbers of seed pods on Acacias to a level the tree can effectively support), nutrient recyclers, and cultural services (such as birdwatching!). Birds have strong ecological roles and so the environment benefits from the many actions of birds going about their day. So next time you are out and about, enjoy the colour and presence of these fun bird clowns hanging from the power lines around town!
Galahs in Ciccone (Images C. Heenan)