Yellow-bellied glider project

TREE KANGAROO & MAMMAL GROUP’S NEW GLIDER PROJECT

2 JUNE 2021

Loud shrieks, rattles and gurgles – these are the distinctive sounds of a yellow-bellied glider and they’re what researchers hope to hear in more than 400,000 hours of audio from areas deep in Mt Windsor National Park.

Song meters are being installed in the forest north-west of Mareeba for a project that members of the Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group hope will shed new light on its glider population.

The yellow-bellied glider is listed nationally as ‘vulnerable’ and the Wet Tropics is home to what’s believed to be a separate sub-species.

The community conservation group’s president Peter Valentine said solar-powered audio monitors attached to trees would record sounds from two forest sites where gliders had previously been recorded.

“They are sites that are difficult to get to – we’re hoping the song meters will give us a very clear picture of yellow-bellied glider activity over three years,’’ he said.

“From the audio we’ll hear whether the population is stable or declining, and we’ll also get a good insight into the glider’s cycle of behaviour.”

Yellow-bellied gliders are known to be very vocal. Dr John Winter, from the group’s glider research team, says they have various calls ranging from “a chattering gurgle” to a loud screech.

He said the first round of audio – from sites covering prime to marginal glider habitat with song meters every 300 metres – would be available in September.

“We’ll need a lot of volunteers to listen to hundreds of hours of recordings,’’ he said.

“The Mt Windsor area is an important one for yellow-bellied gliders in the Wet Tropics given its difficulty to access and the current threats for glider populations across the region ranging from habitat fragmentation to the encroachment of rainforest over many years and to climate change.”

The group has also been monitoring yellow-bellied glider populations at Tumoulin Forest Reserve near Ravenshoe, Bluff State Forest near Wondecla and Mt Baldy Forest Reserve at Atherton.

“The Wet Tropics populations are quite different from others in Australia,’’ Prof. Valentine said.

“We know from monitoring that they look different and they behave differently. They are not described as a separate sub-species yet so it’s important to keep establishing baseline information, which also helps to better protect these gliders into the future.”

Dr Winter said the gliders could also be monitored by mapping the marks they made on trees to extract sap. “These red mahoganies are trees of life – by day there are birds and insects in them getting sap out of the cuts left by the yellow-bellied gliders and by night you can sometimes see all three species of gliders in them – the yellow-bellied glider, the sugar glider and the feather-tailed glider and that’s a fantastic sight.”

The Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group is working on a wide range of revegetation, monitoring and advocacy projects and relies on the help of more than 100 volunteers ranging from “scientists and farmers to teachers, artists and publicans”. Members also work closely with other community groups and government organisations. To find out more, or to become a volunteer, visit www.treekangaroo.net

Terrain NRM is a community-based membership organisation. The Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group is one of 80+ members in a network involved in natural resource management in the Wet Tropics. Find out more at https://terrain.org.au/membership/

Yellow-bellied glider image: Geoff Spanner

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