Mahogany glider project extends to five years

May 30, 2019

The endangered mahogany glider has leapt back into the spotlight with a $1.2 million boost to a North Queensland project and with new footage of gliders in the wild.

Night-time images from cameras in bushland near Cardwell are part of a five-year $1.59 million ‘Biodiversity Bright Spots -Tackling Woodland Threats’ program that includes tree-planting to link fragmented mahogany glider habitat, controlled burns, weed work and research into the best ways to monitor such an elusive species.

The project is supported by Terrain NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. It was recently extended from one year to five years.

Terrain NRM’s project leader Kerrie McGrath said establishing population trends was an important part of the new mahogany glider recovery work.

The gliders only exist in a relatively small pocket of northern Queensland and the last population estimate was 1500 to 2000.

“These are figures from 2010, before Cyclone Yasi damaged glider habitat in the Tully and Cardwell areas,’’ Ms McGrath said.

“We still don’t know the effect on the population. Gliders are nocturnal, shy and extremely quiet so it makes monitoring them challenging.

“We have some footage from other monitoring programs including evidence of gliders using pole crossings above roads. We also have knowledge of glider deaths on fences with barbed top-wires, which is an unfortunate way to learn about the population.

“A short trial fauna survey recently led to the new footage of gliders. Terrain NRM is looking forward to working with researchers on methodology, as part of this project, to establish the best ways to monitor the population and follow population trends in the future.

The ‘Tackling Woodland Threats’ project will also better protect broad-leafed tea tree woodlands and ant plants.

Ms McGrath said revegetation work would extend a wildlife corridor in the Coolbie area north of Townsville, and controlled burns were planned in the wider region to prevent thickening of glider habitat.

“Cool burning and weed work also encourages reproduction of desired vegetation in the appropriate areas,’’ she said.Mahogany gliders are known to live between the Hull River near Tully and Ollera Creek north of Townsville.

Less than 50 per cent of original mahogany glider habitat remains in North Queensland, and it is badly fragmented. With only five core sub-populations of mahogany gliders, protecting the remaining habitat and establishing wildlife corridors is essential for the gliders to reproduce and access food sources.

Terrain NRM is working in partnership with landholders, government bodies, researchers, North Queensland’s Mahogany Glider Recovery Team and Girringun Aboriginal Rangers to deliver the project. Kerry McGrath has recently stepped in as project leader for Jacqui Diggins, who is on maternity leave.

For more information, contact Terrain NRM’s Kerrie McGrath on 0411 637 524.