Saving endangered mahogany gliders

GLIDER CAM: 60 CAMERAS,
5 WEEKS A YEAR

FEBRUARY 2024

Mahogany gliders have been captured on camera at three sites between Tully and Townsville as recovery team members start a new phase in their work to save this endangered species.

The elusive little gliders have been spotted in bushland on the Cardwell Range and further south at Bambaroo as part of a five-year monitoring program to learn more about mahogany glider populations and how many remain in the wild.

Sixty cameras, five weeks, a photo every three seconds…

Terrain NRM’s Jacqui Diggins said 60 cameras were attached to trees for a five-week period by teams from Girringun Aboriginal Corporation, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, James Cook University, NQ Dry Tropics NRM and Terrain NRM.

“These cameras take photos every three seconds. We set up 20 cameras in a quadrant at three different locations where mahogany gliders have been recorded during research over the last 15 to 20 years.

“The aim is to do this for five years at the same locations, with the same methods and at the same time of year so we can detect trends in the glider population.”

Mahogany gliders are only known to be between Tully and Ollera Creek, north of Townsville. The last population estimate for this endangered species was based on survey data collected from 1994 to 1996. It was estimated that between 1500 and 2000 mahogany gliders remained. Then their habitat was battered by a severe tropical cyclone in 2011.

Monitoring key populations through time

Mrs Diggins said cameras had been used over the past two years, along with catch and release trapping to take tiny tissue samples, in a bid to better understand the boundaries of mahogany glider habitat, populations and genetic health. The work was part of a Terrain NRM project funded by the Australian Government, and was also James Cook University research led by PhD student Eryn Chang and Professor Conrad Hoskins.

The results have laid the foundations for the current population monitoring program.

“Looking for populations of mahogany gliders within the known distribution areas, and also beyond them, was the first step. Now we have selected some key populations to monitor through time,’’ Mrs Diggins said.

Laying foundations for new citizen science project 

“We’ve chosen three locations with the highest recordings of mahogany gliders. We hope to have more sites in the future. We’ll need five consecutive years of records to begin to know population trends, which can inform us for long-term management of this endangered species.

“We’re also hoping this research can become a citizen science project in years to come.”

Terrain NRM’s ‘Biodiversity Bright Spots – Building Resilience in Wet Tropics Woodlands’ project was funded by the Australian Government through its National Landcare Program. The project also included working with landholders and conservationists on native trees plantings to bridge gaps in glider habitat, and working with Girringun Aboriginal Rangers and the Queensland Department of Resources on controlled burns in pockets of remaining woodland to stop rainforest from thickening and preventing gliders from moving between trees.

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