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previous news articles...
Post Cyclone Yasi – what is happening? - 21 March 2011

Mahogany Glider
Photo © Daryl Dickson

In the past few weeks since the devastating Cyclone Yasi hit northern Queensland, a great deal of progress has been made in the recovery effort through the commitment and collaboration by Wildlife Queensland members, local residents and DERM staff. Members of WPSQ's Tully branch have been attending meetings and briefings to ensure that we all work together on the best way forward. The recent rain has not made the physical work easy but provision to feeding stations for cassowaries and mahogany gliders has continued. The restoration of the Tully, Ingham and Cardwell region is happening across many fronts - our updates on this page focus on the mahogany glider.


Mahogany Glider recovery post Cyclone Yasi

Wildlife Queensland is very grateful for the generosity of the Foundation for Australia's Most Endangered Species who have provided funding to assist with monitoring mahogany glider feed stations and den boxes for the next 12 months. The Foundation was very quick in approving funds for this project as they recognised the urgency and importance of ensuring the future of one of Australia's most endangered species. Their support of this program is invaluable.

The project will encompass both immediate needs and future requirements. The actions that have been identified as most urgent are the provision of supplementary feed and installation of artificial dens (nest boxes).  A lot of good work is carried out by volunteer groups, government agencies and individuals - however ongoing long-term monitoring programs are often absent due to lack of funding or human resources. Wildlife Queensland does not want this to happen to the previous and current efforts to save the endangered mahogany glider. We want to ensure that the population of mahogany gliders is not declining and so relief efforts have to be immediate and effective.

Destruction of forests by Cyclone Yasi
Photo © Anne Wilkinson

The main objectives of this project are to:

  1. assess the effectiveness of feeding stations for mahogany gliders, including setting up camera-traps, checking cameras, downloading images and analysing results.
  2. install glider den boxes in priority areas.
  3. assess the effectiveness of the den boxes, including checking for occupancy - initially more frequently, then periodically for 12 months.
  4. determine how long it is taking for natural foods to return and assess if there is a need for revegetation in some areas.
  5. demonstrate to the public and governments that it is possible, through practical measures and determination to do something constructive to help our wildlife, even when all appears lost following a natural disaster such as this cyclone.

The data we collect will indicate whether and how often the gliders are utilising the den boxes and feeding stations. This will provide information on competition for nest boxes from other species and which design of box works well for mahogany gliders. The findings will also provide core information on the efficacy of the cyclone recovery effort for the gliders – information that is of immense importance for planning the future of the support program.

Watch our website for updates on this project due to start later this month.

New dens for gliders

Nest cylinders
Photo © Tina Ball

The number of groups and individuals coming forward to assist with making and donating den boxes has been encouraging. These include the Men's Sheds in Cairns and Brisbane, Hollow Log Homes on the Sunshine Coast, and volunteers in QPWS offices at Mossman and Mackay.

Tina Ball who coordinated the Mackay volunteers writes 'We had material donated by 7 local businesses (Reece Plumbing, Dowdens Plumbing, Multirack, Mackay Building Supplies, Consolidated Plastics & Epoxy, NQ Cleaning & Paints, Reef Catchments) & QPWS, equating to around $1800.  Over 2 weekends, 6 people constructed 36 nest structures (28 insulated pvc cylinders; 8 insulated timber boxes).  We also collected some resources (paint, insulation foil) and $250 in donations from DERM staff in Mackay.'

This is a great achievement as making a 'box inserted in a box' takes double the material and takes double the time! In addition, DERM are loaning some tiny tag temperature loggers so that a comparison can be made between various styles of nest structures.  A structure that offers a cool and stable temperature inside will be best for the occupant. 
The pvc cylinders were originally trialled for squirrel gliders due to their durability and light weight, but they cost significantly more than timber boxes to construct.  However, when the expected life of the structure is considered, the pvc cylinders are cheaper.  Boxes can be destroyed by termites within months however cylinders are expected to last many years.  Both are susceptible to fire!

Hungry Wildlife is not forgotten

Wildlife Queensland would like to congratulate Tully Branch member, Anne Wilkinson, who recently won the Cassowary Coast Regional Council's Environment Award, 2011, in recognition of her efforts on behalf of conservation in the shire and beyond. Anne recounts her personal experience of the aftermath of the Cyclone that hit her house and her beloved forests. Anne writes:

Rufous Owl
Photo © Daryl Dickson

'How good it is to see how quickly trees damaged during Cyclone Yasi are growing new leaves and beginning to provide welcome shade as well as cover for birds and animals. These must have felt very vulnerable when the trees were bare and they were exposed to predators such as hawks and owls, of course, more visible to cats and dogs. The leaves and the flowers are such a welcome sign. The huge, now very broken, golden penda in our garden, for example, has been in full flower again and positively buzzing with native bees. Every day more butterflies are appearing, including Ulysses butterflies which we did not see for a while after the cyclone.

'People putting out honeyeater mix (a slurry of water, high protein powder and/or cereal and honey) or who own a birdbath will probably have been surprised by how many different species visit. Two of the most often seen are the yellow-spotted honeyeater and the graceful honeyeater. Both have distinctive yellow patches behind their eyes and yellow gapes on their beak. At a distance they are hard to tell apart, though the graceful honeyeater, at about 150mm beak to tail is slightly smaller and its brownish plumage has more of a yellow sheen. The yellow-spotted honeyeater is often called the lesser Lewin's honeyeater. The Lewin's honeyeater is slightly bigger again and is more commonly found at higher altitudes than its smaller coastal cousins. All are bold little birds and can seem quite comfortable around humans.

Feeding Station
Photo © DERM

'Especially at times like this the yellow-spotted honeyeater particularly will often fly close and screech as if for food. The call of the graceful honeyeater is softer, more like a gentle click or sometimes, a soft whistle. All three build pretty, cup-shaped, delicately woven nests and rear two to three youngsters. They are most welcome in the garden as they eat many different kinds of insects as well as nectar. Of course, all nectar eating birds greatly appreciate extra food at this time, and in times of warm weather, a birdbath or large bowl to drink from or bathe. A large pot base makes a good substitute for a birdbath and, if set on the ground, this can be used by frogs too. Alternatively, set it on a large upturned flower pot, placed near cover and in shade.

'Feeding stations (supplemented feeding sites) have been established for cassowaries and we have received several calls from people concerned about cassowaries and chicks coming through their gardens and asking how to find out about feeding stations.
Supplemented feeding sites for mahogany gliders have also been established and, like those for cassowaries, these will be carefully monitored. This is not only to discover if gliders are using them but also to find out about any other creatures which may be visiting them because, as was pointed out at a meeting with QPWS this week, all creatures are hungry. Striped possums, for example, could well be feeding from them.

'We gained knowledge of the emergency needs of cassowaries following Cyclone Larry, which was most helpful,' said Mike Joyce, team leader, Eastern Field Operations, QPWS.
'Emergency feeding in the wild for mahogany gliders is in many ways new territory, but is important as the gliders' entire habitat has been affected. There are many issues needing consideration. These range from territorial issues because gliders do have large individual territories, to points such as the kind of honey to use. It is not known, for example, whether wild gliders will recognise honey that is not local.

It was also stressed that gliders existing in small fragmented areas are as needy, if not more so, as those occupying larger habitat areas.

'On Wildwatch's 10-acres of what was beautiful woodland on the cusp of old growth forest, in the heart of mahogany glider country, reduced by Cyclone Yasi to chaotic tumbles of snapped trees with a few huge warriors, mainly bloodwood and Moreton Bay ash still standing, the glider feed station has been attached to two of the large, still standing bloodwoods. Little bowls of special slurry, to be replaced every two days, with trails of honey to help guide the gliders will, we hope, help these very special creatures through the next few months until their wild food is again available. They have so little of their original habitat left any help they can be given is vital. Replacement of damaged den boxes and the erection of new boxes, since so many den trees have been destroyed, is also a major feature of the mahogany glider initiative.'

Partnerships providing support

Wildlife Queensland's Tully Branch and Head Office are pleased to be working with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service at Ripple Creek, DERM staff, as well as many groups who have made huge contributions to the relief in far north Queensland. Those who are working to resource, assist and inform include Terrain at Innisfail, Tolga Bat hospital, Hinchinbrook Shire Council, students from James Cook University, RSPCA, CCRC Disaster Management , Girringun Rangers, ABC Radio Far North, Channel 9 New Cairns, Carolyn Emms, Hollow Log Homes, Mens Shed Cairns, Mens Shed Brisbane, QPWS Mossman (Tina Alderson) and QPWS Mackay (Tina Ball), and the Foundation for Australia's Most Endangered Species.

There are also at least 17 local landholders participating by having feed station & dens on their properties.

What's next?

Wildlife Queensland's monitoring project, Mahogany Glider recovery post Cyclone Yasi, commences soon and we'll keep you informed on progress through this website and in QGN News if you're a member.

Click here to join QGN - it's free.

How you can help

  • Volunteers needed for monitoring teams over the next 12 months: contact us for details
  • More fundraising initiatives will be developed to ensure we can maximise the essential fieldwork over the next 12 months. Donate through our online store.

More information

For more information on Wildlife Queensland's activities, call us on +61 7 3221 0194 or send us an email.