Animals galore

on 10 Aug 2016 

In Western Australia we partner with the Wunambal Gaambera people, who recently completed some of their annual monitoring program in the Mitchell Plateau area.

Mammal trapping, which was undertaken in partnership with WA Parks and Wildlife, picked up healthy populations of Northern Quolls, Golden Bandicoots, Northern Brown Bandicoots, Golden-backed Tree Rats, Brush-tailed Rabbit-rats and other rodents.

And camping out we saw lots of Sugar-gliders (soon to be named a new Kimberley species) feeding on the flowering Woolybutt and Stringybark trees, as well as two Brush-tailed Phascogales – not sighted or trapped in many years in the Kimberley.

This year we've added a camera trap array to correlate standard trapping data with a camera trapping method used by NT Parks and Wildlife (and also our Warddeken partners). The results will enable us to complement labour-intensive standard trapping with camera trapping in more remote areas with different fire and feral animal impacts and treatments in future.

We've been complementing the small mammal work with work on culturally important species and habitats with the help of PhD students from UTas. Angie Reid is working with the Wunambal Gaambera on grazing and fire interactions and developing the best monitoring method for macropods. However, Antillopine Kangaroos are proving to be the rarest mammal in the region with the lowest population density of all. Road transects may prove to be ineffective due to low densities of animals but camera traps and scat counts show some promise.

Another PhD student, Stefania Ondei, recently submitted her thesis on wulo (rainforest) in Wunambal Gaambera Country with some interesting results. There are more than 6,000 rainforest patches in Wunambal Gaambera Country greater than 0.1 hectare in size with most under a single hectare. No patch has shrunk or disappeared in the last 50 years (based on aerial photo analysis) despite experiencing a period of unmanaged wildfire.

Fire protected patches on Bougainville Peninsula have expanded up to 60%. Aerial photos from 1949 show signs of fires lit by Wunambal Gaambera people who were still living in the bush.