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Long Nosed Potoroo/Spotted Tail Quoll Updates

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 1:51 pm
by ForumAdmin
FAME/EXETEL Southern Ark Sponsorship -Three Monthly Report No1.


Component 1 – Spotted-tailed Quoll Monitoring Program

Background:

• Purchase of 30 remote digital cameras to monitor Spotted-tailed Quoll numbers at potential latrine sites
• Purchase 30 digital remote cameras by April 2008.
• Deploy 15 during the quoll breeding season in 2008 (May – August) at identified likely latrine sites.
• Deploy 15 at other locations on the Errinundra Plateau where quolls are likely to occur during the quoll breeding season (May – August) – student project, student identified who would monitor these cameras.
• At the end of the breeding season, report on the numbers of quolls identified – report complete by November 2008.
• Repeat in 2009 – compare results of quolls photographed with fox control effort.

• Employment of 2 casual staff to undertake targeted quoll surveys over two winters

Project Progress:

• Following a review of available camera designs, we selected the Moultrie Game-spy l-60 remote camera, and we were able to purchase 40 cameras with the available budget.
• On advice from colleagues who have extensive experience in using remote cameras, we are ensuring that each unit is fully operational before being deployed in the field situation.
• In conjuction with an off-campus student from the University of New England (Rena Gaberov) we have developed a survey project of the Errinundra Plateau. Rena will manage 30 cameras, and deploy them across 90 sites over the next three months, with each site being surveyed for a month. The sites have been selected and monitoring will commence in mid June, and run through until mid September.
• A number of people have been canvassed regarding their potential employment in the latrine search survey component, and two suitable people have been tentatively selected to carry out this work. It is envisaged that survey work of potential latrine sites, along with the deployment of the other 10 remote cameras, will take place over six weeks during July-August 2008.

Component 2: Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot Monitoring Program

Background:

• Purchase of 100 traps to undertake intensive monitoring of endangered Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot populations to fox control across seven study sites ($11,500)
• Employment of 2 casual staff to assist with potoroo and bandicoot surveys over seven sites ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 7 hour days x 35 days = $14,700). Note: each of the seven sites is surveyed for 5 days, resulting in a total of 35 days of field work.

• Purchase 100 traps by August 2008.
• Undertake survey of seven sites during November/December 2008.
• Report prepared on trapping results by March 2009.
• Repeat trapping program in 2009 and in subsequent years (funding not being requested for this at this stage).

Project Progress:

• A number of potential sites have been identified for survey, including one site where Southern Brown Bandicoots appear to be making a strong recovery, based on hairtube results. The site, on Old Coast Road, has been surveyed by the Southern Ark team in conjunction with the local TAFE College as an education/training exercise over the last three years. This year the hairtubing effort was able to detect Southern Brown Bandicoots on 30 transects out of a possible 100, with 16% of hairtubes overall securing bandicoot hair (64 hairtubes from 400 hairtubes in total). This is a remarkably high level of detection, and we will use the cage traps purchased to monitor this site (as well as six other sites) over the next few years.
• Cage traps will be purchased from Mascots Wireworks over the next three weeks.

Component 3: Construction of breeding enclosures for Diamond Pythons

Background:

• Purchase enclosures to house captive pythons by October 2008
• Identify locations that enclosures would be established by November 2008
• Establish enclosures by February 2009 (by which time pythons will have been captured, and held prior to breeding program).

Progress:

• Three purpose-built enclosures have been purchased from Australian Fauna Supplies.
• Discussions have been initiated with Parks Victoria regarding the establishment of these enclosures on “Marshmead” a property owned by the Methodist Ladies College on the eastern side of Mallacoota Inlet. This site would be ideal as it is well within the known range of the species in Victoria, it would double as a useful education project, and as a working farm and educational facility for young teenage girls it maintains a constant security effort.
• The enclosures will be delivered to East Gippsland in mid June



Andrew Murray
Southern Ark Operations Manager
Department of Sustainability & Environment
PO Box 260 Orbost VIC 3888
Phone: 03 51 611 302
Mobile: 0419396948

Re: Southern Ark Updates

Posted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 12:53 pm
by ForumAdmin
FAME/EXETEL Southern Ark Sponsorship -Three Monthly Report No 2.

Component 1 – Spotted-tailed Quoll Monitoring Program

Background:

• Purchase of 30 remote digital cameras to monitor Spotted-tailed Quoll numbers at potential latrine sites

• Purchase 30 digital remote cameras by April 2008.
• Deploy 15 during the quoll breeding season in 2008 (May – August) at identified likely latrine sites.
• Deploy 15 at other locations on the Errinundra Plateau where quolls are likely to occur during the quoll breeding season (May – August) – student project, student identified who would monitor these cameras.
• At the end of the breeding season, report on the numbers of quolls identified – report complete by November 2008.
• Repeat in 2009 – compare results of quolls photographed with fox control effort.

• Employment of 2 casual staff to undertake targeted quoll surveys over two winters

Progress Reported in Three-monthly Report No. 1:

• Following a review of available camera designs, we selected the Moultrie Game-spy l-60 remote camera, and we were able to purchase 40 cameras with the available budget.
• On advice from colleagues who have extensive experience in using remote cameras, we are ensuring that each unit is fully operational before being deployed in the field situation.
• In conjuction with an off-campus student from the University of New England (Rena Gaberov) we have developed a survey project of the Errinundra Plateau. Rena will manage 30 cameras, and deploy them across 90 sites over the next three months, with each site being surveyed for a month. The sites have been selected and monitoring will commence in mid June, and run through until mid September.
• A number of people have been canvassed regarding their potential employment in the latrine search survey component, and two suitable people have been tentatively selected to carry out this work. It is envisaged that survey work of potential latrine sites, along with the deployment of the other 10 remote cameras, will take place over six weeks during July-August 2008.

Recent Progress (since last update):

• Rena Gaberov has surveyed over 60 sites with the remote cameras on the Errinundra Plateau and Arte River areas to date.
• The cameras have been located in gully habitats likely to be frequented by Spotted-tailed Quolls. Each camera was aimed at a bait, which consisted of fresh chicken pieces placed within a wire-netting pouch, which was secured to the ground or a tree. While there have been some technical problems with a small number of cameras, overall the performance of the cameras has been good.
• No photographs of Spotted-tailed Quolls have been recorded. While this has been a disappointing result, it has reinforced the rarity of the species in East Gippsland, primarily as a result of competition/predation from the Red Fox. This survey provides baseline data against which we can compare the results from future surveys in this area, now that we have commenced ongoing fox control.
• Thousands of images were recorded, with Bush Rats, Agile and Dusky Antechinus, Brush-tail Possums and Water Rats being the species seen most often. All of these species were considerably interested in consuming the bait. The fact that there is an abundant population of smaller mammals willing and able to consume meat-based baits has important ramifications for any future proposal to undertake any type of baiting for dogs, foxes or cats using aerially deployed baits. It also reinforces the importance of the buried-bait method as a way to target foxes while minimising risks and bait-loss to non-target species.
• Other species photographed incidentally were Swamp Wallabies and Echidnas.
• A considerable number of cameras recorded Feral Cats, but no wild dogs were photographed, and, significantly, only two cameras photographed foxes. This is significant because when a similar project using remote cameras was carried out a year before ongoing fox control was implemented, over 30% of the cameras recorded foxes.
• The most significant result has been the incidental identification of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo at two survey locations on the Arte River. Communications from researchers working on this species have suggested the species has been recorded at two new locations. This species has only ever been captured in Victoria, although they may still exist in south-eastern New South Wales.
• Cameras from approximately another 20 sites have still to be collected and checked.
• Two people (Tim Field and Maria Cardoso) have been employed for six weeks and have undertaken a number of hairtubing surveys and searches for quoll latrines. At this point we await results back from the analysis of both hairtube tapes and scats, and this survey work will be more fully documented in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).


Component 2: Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot Monitoring Program

Background:

• Purchase of 100 traps to undertake intensive monitoring of endangered Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot populations to fox control across seven study sites
• Employment of 2 casual staff to assist with potoroo and bandicoot surveys over seven sites.
Note: each of the seven sites is surveyed for 5 days, resulting in a total of 35 days of field work.

• Purchase 100 traps by August 2008.
• Undertake survey of seven sites during November/December 2008.
• Report prepared on trapping results by March 2009.
• Repeat trapping program in 2009 and in subsequent years (funding not being requested for this at this stage).

Progress Reported in Three-monthly Report No. 1:

• A number of potential sites have been identified for survey, including one site where Southern Brown Bandicoots appear to be making a strong recovery, based on hairtube results. The site, on Old Coast Road, has been surveyed by the Southern Ark team in conjunction with the local TAFE College as an education/training exercise over the last three years. This year the hairtubing effort was able to detect Southern Brown Bandicoots on 30 transects out of a possible 100, with 16% of hairtubes overall securing bandicoot hair (64 hairtubes from 400 hairtubes in total). This is a remarkably high level of detection, and we will use the cage traps purchased to monitor this site (as well as six other sites) over the next few years.
• Cage traps will be purchased from Mascots Wireworks over the next three weeks.

Recent Progress (since last update):

• The purchase of the cage-traps has been put on hold while a trial has commenced comparing the efficacy of cage-traps with remote cameras and hairtubes. This is being undertaken in areas known to support healthy populations of potoroos as well as in areas where potoroos are less abundant. More specifically, we are interested to determine if the cameras are detecting bandicoots at a higher frequency than cage-traps or hairtubes; there is some anecdotal evidence that they appear to be more reluctant to be detected by either cage-traps or hairtubes. Purchase of cage-traps will be put on hold until the results of this short trial are analysed and reported on in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).


Component 3: Construction of breeding enclosures for Diamond Pythons

Background:

• Purchase enclosures to house captive pythons by October 2008
• Identify locations that enclosures would be established by November 2008
• Establish enclosures by February 2009 (by which time pythons will have been captured, and held prior to breeding program).



Progress Reported in Three-monthly Report No. 1:

• Three purpose-built enclosures have been purchased from Australian Fauna Supplies.
• Discussions have been initiated with Parks Victoria regarding the establishment of these enclosures on “Marshmead” a property owned by the Methodist Ladies College on the eastern side of Mallacoota Inlet. This site would be ideal as it is well within the known range of the species in Victoria, it would double as a useful education project, and as a working farm and educational facility for young teenage girls it maintains a constant security effort.
• The enclosures will be delivered to East Gippsland in mid June.

Recent Progress (since last update):

• The three enclosures have been delivered to East Gippsland, and are currently held in under-cover storage in the Southern Ark shed. They look well-made and robust, ideal for their intended purpose.
• Unfortunately, our colleagues in Parks Victoria had not progressed the discussions concerning the establishment of the breeding enclosures with the managers of “Marshmead”, and we will contact the managers directly to pursue this possibility.
• The possibility of securing wild pythons of local provenance to commence the breeding program has been discussed with both Parks Victoria staff, as well as with Eden-based staff of State Forests of New South Wales, and this approach has been received favourably, and now a project brief must be more fully circulated and considered.


Three Monthly Report No 3 Due: December 2008


Andrew Murray
Southern Ark Operations Manager
Department of Sustainability & Environment
PO Box 260 Orbost VIC 3888
Phone: 03 51 611 302
Mobile: 0419396948

Re: Southern Ark Updates

Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 1:43 pm
by ForumAdmin
EXETEL Southern Ark Sponsorship -Three Monthly Report No 3.

There is not a significant amount of detail to report regarding the FAME sponsorship for the past three months, as the Southern Ark team focussed on the major mammal monitoring component of the Southern Ark project during October and November. This program requires the team to use hairtubes to survey 360 1-hectare hairtube grids over the course of six weeks. A hairtube is a tunnel-shaped device that utilises a food lure to entice mammals to investigate the hairtube, whereby loose hair from the animal is then stuck to double-sided sticky-tape that is placed within the hairtube to protect it from the elements. The bait (a mixture of rolled oats, peanut butter, golden syrup and one of either: pistachio essence, vanilla essence, strawberry essence or aniseed) is placed with a double-spoon tea infuser. Essentially the monitoring program is investigating site occupancy, and over time we hope to see an increase in the number of sites occupied by our target species, potoroos, bandicoots and possums.

Each hairtube grid consists of nine hairtube points, laid out on a 50m x 50m “domino-nine” fashion. There are six study sites, each containing 60 hairtube grids, that are located across the south-eastern half of the Southern Ark area of operation, and during the first week the team is tasked to relocate and remark all hairtube grids (some of which invariably get burnt during fuel reduction programs and ecological burning programs). During the following week the team establishes the hairtubes across the 360 grids, essentially working on two study sites per day, and for the next 4 weeks they check and replace “hairy” hairtubes with clean hairtubes, and remove all the hairtubes on the final (fifth) visit.

This monitoring program is challenging, both logistically and financially. It requires a team of 16 people operating in pairs from eight four-wheel-drive vehicles working three days a week for five weeks physically undertaking the hairtubing component, and spending the rest of the week making up new hairtubes and fresh bait. The program requires 3,240 hairtubes to be constructed for week one, with an approximate turn-over rate of around 40% each week, so that approximately 1,300 hairtubes have to be made up for Weeks Two and Four, with a total changeover of hairtubes (ie 3,240 clean hairtubes) during Week Three.

All baits in the tea infusers was changed weekly in order to (a) revive or encourage the interest of mammals on site to investigate the hairtubes, and (b) to test if there is any particular essence that attracted mammals at rate significantly higher than the others. Over the course of the four weeks of hairtubing, four different additives were added to the standard bait at each site. This was done in a random fashion, so that during Week One the site might be baited with bait containing aniseed, in Week Two it might be strawberry essence, in Week Three it might be pistachio essence and in Week Four it would then be vanilla essence. Each infuser holds about 20g of bait, so approximately 65kg of bait had to be made up and available for each week. 260kg of bait was required in total; this is a lot of peanut butter, rolled oats and golden syrup!

In order to service all 360 hairtube grids on a weekly basis, the six-person Southern Ark Field Team was joined by five people who were returning to work as Project Fire Fighters during the summer months. These individuals are already fully qualified to drive DSE vehicles and operate chainsaws, and so were able to step straight into the field work component. Also joining the Field Team were five casual employees employed through an employment agency. In order to reduce the travel-time to and from the study sites (an obvious Occupational Health and Safety Issue), the team was accommodated overnight in Cann River for one night and Mallacoota for the following night.

The hairtubing program has cost approximately $150,000, which of course is paid for by the Southern Ark program. From a total of 12,960 checks (360 grids x 9 hairtubes x 4 visits) we have obtained in excess of 5,000 hairtube samples that require analysis.

While not directly related to the FAME sponsorship, I thought EXETEL may be interested in learning about this component of the Southern Ark program, as it is a major undertaking.


Please find below a report on the most recent developments of the Exetel sponsorship of the Southern Ark project.


Component 1 – Spotted-tailed Quoll Monitoring Program

Background:

• Purchase of 30 remote digital cameras to monitor Spotted-tailed Quoll numbers at potential latrine sites ($24,000)

• Purchase 30 digital remote cameras by April 2008.
• Deploy 15 during the quoll breeding season in 2008 (May – August) at identified likely latrine sites.
• Deploy 15 at other locations on the Errinundra Plateau where quolls are likely to occur during the quoll breeding season (May – August) – student project, student identified who would monitor these cameras.
• At the end of the breeding season, report on the numbers of quolls identified – report complete by November 2008.
• Repeat in 2009 – compare results of quolls photographed with fox control effort.

• Employment of 2 casual staff to undertake targeted quoll surveys over two winters ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 10 hour days x 30 days x two winters = $36,000)


Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1 and 2:

• Following a review of available camera designs, we selected the Moultrie Game-spy l-60 remote camera, and we were able to purchase 40 cameras with the available budget.
• On advice from colleagues who have extensive experience in using remote cameras, we are ensuring that each unit is fully operational before being deployed in the field situation.
• In conjuction with an off-campus student from the University of New England (Rena Gaberov) we have developed a survey project of the Errinundra Plateau. Rena will manage 30 cameras, and deploy them across 90 sites over the next three months, with each site being surveyed for a month. The sites have been selected and monitoring will commence in mid June, and run through until mid September.
• A number of people have been canvassed regarding their potential employment in the latrine search survey component, and two suitable people have been tentatively selected to carry out this work. It is envisaged that survey work of potential latrine sites, along with the deployment of the other 10 remote cameras, will take place over six weeks during July-August 2008.
• Rena Gaberov has surveyed over 60 sites with the remote cameras on the Errinundra Plateau and Arte River areas to date.
• The cameras have been located in gully habitats likely to be frequented by Spotted-tailed Quolls. Each camera was aimed at a bait, which consisted of fresh chicken pieces placed within a wire-netting pouch, which was secured to the ground or a tree. While there have been some technical problems with a small number of cameras, overall the performance of the cameras has been good.
• No photographs of Spotted-tailed Quolls have been recorded. While this has been a disappointing result, it has reinforced the rarity of the species in East Gippsland, primarily as a result of competition/predation from the Red Fox. This survey provides baseline data against which we can compare the results from future surveys in this area, now that we have commenced ongoing fox control.
• Thousands of images were recorded, with Bush Rats, Agile and Dusky Antechinus, Brush-tail Possums and Water Rats being the species seen most often. All of these species were considerably interested in consuming the bait. The fact that there is an abundant population of smaller mammals willing and able to consume meat-based baits has important ramifications for any future proposal to undertake any type of baiting for dogs, foxes or cats using aerially deployed baits. It also reinforces the importance of the buried-bait method as a way to target foxes while minimising risks and bait-loss to non-target species.
• Other species photographed incidentally were Swamp Wallabies and Echidnas.
• A considerable number of cameras recorded Feral Cats, but no wild dogs were photographed, and, significantly, only two cameras photographed foxes. This is significant because when a similar project using remote cameras was carried out a year before ongoing fox control was implemented, over 30% of the cameras recorded foxes.
• The most significant result has been the incidental identification of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo at two survey locations on the Arte River. Communications from researchers working on this species have suggested the species has been recorded at two new locations. This species has only ever been captured in Victoria, although they may still exist in south-eastern New South Wales.
• Cameras from approximately another 20 sites have still to be collected and checked.
• Two people (Tim Field and Maria Cardoso) have been employed for six weeks and have undertaken a number of hairtubing surveys and searches for quoll latrines. At this point we await results back from the analysis of both hairtube tapes and scats, and this survey work will be more fully documented in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).


Recent Progress (since last update):

• None of the sites at which cameras were placed recorded any Spotted-tailed Quolls.
• Despite hairtubing a number of suitable locations, Tim Field and Maria Cardoso were unable to hairtube Spotted-tailed Quolls, although at one site on Martins Creek they did hairtube an endangered Long-footed Potoroo.
• Tim and Maria did collect multiple predator scats that may be Spotted-tailed Quoll scats, however full analysis of these has yet to be finalised.
• Rena and I have had initial discussions concerning the reporting of the camera survey, and I believe that in addition to the final report on the project that will be forwarded to FAME, it should be submitted to “The Victorian Naturalist” for publication. We will work on this publication over the next few months, with full acknowledgment of FAME as a sponsor of the project. Rena has been part of the hairtubing team during this last reporting period, and has not been able to complete her report as fully as she would like. She and I will work on this over January/February 2009.
• Rena has been plotting all of the study sites on ArcGIS in order to produce high-quality maps of the survey sites.



Component 2: Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot Monitoring Program


Background:

• Purchase of 100 traps to undertake intensive monitoring of endangered Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot populations to fox control across seven study sites ($11,500)
• Employment of 2 casual staff to assist with potoroo and bandicoot surveys over seven sites ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 7 hour days x 35 days = $14,700). Note: each of the seven sites is surveyed for 5 days, resulting in a total of 35 days of field work.

• Purchase 100 traps by August 2008.
• Undertake survey of seven sites during November/December 2008.
• Report prepared on trapping results by March 2009.
• Repeat trapping program in 2009 and in subsequent years (funding not being requested for this at this stage).



Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1 and 2:


• A number of potential sites have been identified for survey, including one site where Southern Brown Bandicoots appear to be making a strong recovery, based on hairtube results. The site, on Old Coast Road, has been surveyed by the Southern Ark team in conjunction with the local TAFE College as an education/training exercise over the last three years. This year the hairtubing effort was able to detect Southern Brown Bandicoots on 30 transects out of a possible 100, with 16% of hairtubes overall securing bandicoot hair (64 hairtubes from 400 hairtubes in total). This is a remarkably high level of detection, and we will use the cage traps purchased to monitor this site (as well as six other sites) over the next few years.
• Cage traps will be purchased from Mascots Wireworks over the next three weeks.
• The purchase of the cage-traps has been put on hold while a trial has commenced comparing the efficacy of cage-traps with remote cameras and hairtubes. This is being undertaken in areas known to support healthy populations of potoroos as well as in areas where potoroos are less abundant. More specifically, we are interested to determine if the cameras are detecting bandicoots at a higher frequency than cage-traps or hairtubes; there is some anecdotal evidence that they appear to be more reluctant to be detected by either cage-traps or hairtubes. Purchase of cage-traps will be put on hold until the results of this short trial are analysed and reported on in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).



Recent Progress (since last update):

• Two trials have in fact taken place since the last report, one which tested the efficacy of cameras with both hairtubes and traps as methods of detection, and one that investigated the behaviour of animals approaching traps. The data from the first trial does not appear to be robust enough to categorically state that one technique is more effective than any other, and plans are in place to repeat this early in 2009 (PhD student Alex Diment is undertaking this aspect of the study, supported by the Southern Ark Field Team). Interestingly, during the second trial, we photographed a number of instances were Long-nosed Potoroos did enter cage-traps, but failed to stand on the treadle that triggers the release mechanism for the door to shut, and they therefore did not get caught! The cameras that FAME sponsored for the quoll project were used during this work, and I intend to write this result up as a short note, and will acknowledge the contribution that FAME has made towards making this research possible. Despite the fact that potoroos on some occasions don’t get caught (I should add that on many more occasions they do get trapped!), and on the back of the results of the of some of the early data being generated by the hairtubing program this year, I intend (if this is approved by FAME) to proceed with the initial plan and purchase 100 cage traps, undertake a targeted survey of seven “hot spot” sites (as defined by positive hairtube results from the hairtubing program for potoroos and bandicoots) in April 2009 and in October 2009 (ie two surveys six months apart).


Component 3: Construction of breeding enclosures for Diamond Pythons

Background:

• Purchase enclosures to house captive pythons by October 2008
• Identify locations that enclosures would be established by November 2008
• Establish enclosures by February 2009 (by which time pythons will have been captured, and held prior to breeding program).


Progress Reported in Three-monthly Report No. 1:

• Three purpose-built enclosures have been purchased from Australian Fauna Supplies.
• Discussions have been initiated with Parks Victoria regarding the establishment of these enclosures on “Marshmead” a property owned by the Methodist Ladies College on the eastern side of Mallacoota Inlet. This site would be ideal as it is well within the known range of the species in Victoria, it would double as a useful education project, and as a working farm and educational facility for young teenage girls it maintains a constant security effort.
• The enclosures will be delivered to East Gippsland in mid June.
• The three enclosures have been delivered to East Gippsland, and are currently held in under-cover storage in the Southern Ark shed. They look well-made and robust, ideal for their intended purpose.
• Unfortunately, our colleagues in Parks Victoria had not progressed the discussions concerning the establishment of the breeding enclosures with the managers of “Marshmead”, and we will contact the managers directly to pursue this possibility.
• The possibility of securing wild pythons of local provenance to commence the breeding program has been discussed with both Parks Victoria staff, as well as with Eden-based staff of State Forests of New South Wales, and this approach has been received favourably, and now a project brief must be more fully circulated and considered.


Recent Progress (since last update):

• Very little to report on this component, other than recent changes in staffing in key positions in both Parks Victoria in Gippsland and Forests NSW in Eden have led to some fruitful informal discussions concerning the possibility of securing wild Diamond Pythons to commence the breeding program.
• An important goal over the next two months will be identifying where the captive breeding enclosures will be located, with Marshmead (Methodists Ladies College) remaining a strong candidate. A number of other local property owners have been canvassed, but none can guarantee the safety of the pythons, especially after-hours and on the week-ends.

Three Monthly Report No 4 Due: February 2009

Please direct all queries to Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray
Southern Ark Operations Manager
Department of Sustainability & Environment
PO Box 260 Orbost VIC 3888
Phone: 03 51 611 302
Mobile: 0419396948
andrew.murray@dse.vic.gov.au

Re: Southern Ark Updates

Posted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 3:32 pm
by ForumAdmin
FAME/EXETEL Southern Ark Sponsorship -Three Monthly Report No 4.

Wildfires in Victoria

The dominant issue during this reporting period has undoubtedly been the major wildfires that have swept Victoria during February and March. Despite the tinder-dry conditions, Far East Gippsland was, until just recently, spared the devastating impact of wildfire. While the fires were burning outside the area that forms the Southern Ark area of operation, all of the seven Southern Ark team members, as employees of the Department of Sustainability & Environment (DSE), were involved in fire-fighting duties. A consequence of this is the day-to-day tasks of the Southern Ark team are abandoned for a while, but this has not significantly compromised the integrity of the project.

As I write the DSE is still battling fires in the Cann River District, which is part of the Southern Ark area of operation. A lightning storm passed over the area on March 22nd and ignited over 20 fires, and several thousand hectares of forest have been burnt. This includes several areas that form part of the Southern Ark hairtube monitoring program. The good news on that front is that these fires have been burning in cooler, more benign, conditions, and as a result have not burned as severely as those in other parts of the state earlier in the year.

Hairtubing Program

In the last report I gave a detailed account of the hairtubing program that had been undertaken in October and November in 2008. Barbara Triggs is still analysing the final week’s worth of hairtube tapes…a slow process! In total we sent Barbara 6,537 samples to analyse, so we had a “hit-rate” just in excess of 50%, which is a marvellous result. Long-nosed Potoroos have been recorded on 465 occasions for the first three weeks, and Southern Brown Bandicoots have been hairtubed on 99 occasions. This work has been carried out in areas where fox control has yet to be implemented, so these results mean that we have good founder populations from which a more rapid response from the mammal populations to fox control can take place.

I will provide more details on the results of this program in the next report.




Component 1 – Spotted-tailed Quoll Monitoring Program

 Purchase of 30 remote digital cameras to monitor Spotted-tailed Quoll numbers at potential latrine sites ($24,000)
 Purchase 30 digital remote cameras by April 2008.
 Deploy 15 during the quoll breeding season in 2008 (May – August) at identified likely latrine sites.
 Deploy 15 at other locations on the Errinundra Plateau where quolls are likely to occur during the quoll breeding season (May – August) – student project, student identified who would monitor these cameras.
 At the end of the breeding season, report on the numbers of quolls identified – report complete by November 2008.
 Repeat in 2009 – compare results of quolls photographed with fox control effort.

 Employment of 2 casual staff to undertake targeted quoll surveys over two winters ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 10 hour days x 30 days x two winters = $36,000)



Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1 - 3:

• Following a review of available camera designs, we selected the Moultrie Game-spy l-60 remote camera, and we were able to purchase 40 cameras with the available budget.
• On advice from colleagues who have extensive experience in using remote cameras, we are ensuring that each unit is fully operational before being deployed in the field situation.
• In conjuction with an off-campus student from the University of New England (Rena Gaberov) we have developed a survey project of the Errinundra Plateau. Rena will manage 30 cameras, and deploy them across 90 sites over the next three months, with each site being surveyed for a month. The sites have been selected and monitoring will commence in mid June, and run through until mid September.
• A number of people have been canvassed regarding their potential employment in the latrine search survey component, and two suitable people have been tentatively selected to carry out this work. It is envisaged that survey work of potential latrine sites, along with the deployment of the other 10 remote cameras, will take place over six weeks during July-August 2008.
• Rena Gaberov has surveyed over 60 sites with the remote cameras on the Errinundra Plateau and Arte River areas to date.
• The cameras have been located in gully habitats likely to be frequented by Spotted-tailed Quolls. Each camera was aimed at a bait, which consisted of fresh chicken pieces placed within a wire-netting pouch, which was secured to the ground or a tree. While there have been some technical problems with a small number of cameras, overall the performance of the cameras has been good.
• No photographs of Spotted-tailed Quolls have been recorded. While this has been a disappointing result, it has reinforced the rarity of the species in East Gippsland, primarily as a result of competition/predation from the Red Fox. This survey provides baseline data against which we can compare the results from future surveys in this area, now that we have commenced ongoing fox control.
• Thousands of images were recorded, with Bush Rats, Agile and Dusky Antechinus, Brush-tail Possums and Water Rats being the species seen most often. All of these species were considerably interested in consuming the bait. The fact that there is an abundant population of smaller mammals willing and able to consume meat-based baits has important ramifications for any future proposal to undertake any type of baiting for dogs, foxes or cats using aerially deployed baits. It also reinforces the importance of the buried-bait method as a way to target foxes while minimising risks and bait-loss to non-target species.
• Other species photographed incidentally were Swamp Wallabies and Echidnas.
• A considerable number of cameras recorded Feral Cats, but no wild dogs were photographed, and, significantly, only two cameras photographed foxes. This is significant because when a similar project using remote cameras was carried out a year before ongoing fox control was implemented, over 30% of the cameras recorded foxes.
• The most significant result has been the incidental identification of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo at two survey locations on the Arte River. Communications from researchers working on this species have suggested the species has been recorded at two new locations. This species has only ever been captured in Victoria, although they may still exist in south-eastern New South Wales.
• Cameras from approximately another 20 sites have still to be collected and checked.
• Two people (Tim Field and Maria Cardoso) have been employed for six weeks and have undertaken a number of hairtubing surveys and searches for quoll latrines. At this point we await results back from the analysis of both hairtube tapes and scats, and this survey work will be more fully documented in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).
• None of the sites at which cameras were placed recorded any Spotted-tailed Quolls.
• Despite hairtubing a number of suitable locations, Tim Field and Maria Cardoso were unable to hairtube Spotted-tailed Quolls, although at one site on Martins Creek they did hairtube an endangered Long-footed Potoroo.
• Tim and Maria did collect multiple predator scats that may be Spotted-tailed Quoll scats, however full analysis of these has yet to be finalised.
• Rena and I have had initial discussions concerning the reporting of the camera survey, and I believe that in addition to the final report on the project that will be forwarded to FAME, it should be submitted to “The Victorian Naturalist” for publication. We will work on this publication over the next few months, with full acknowledgment of FAME as a sponsor of the project. Rena has been part of the hairtubing team during this last reporting period, and has not been able to complete her report as fully as she would like. She and I will work on this over January/February 2009.
• Rena has been plotting all of the study sites on ArcGIS in order to produce high-quality maps of the survey sites.



Recent Progress (since last update):

• Rena Gaberov has drafted an article detailing the range extension of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo on the Errinundra Plateau, as a result of two sites where the species was photographed during the FAME-sponsored quoll survey project. I am co-authoring this work, and aim to have the paper submitted to the “Victorian Naturalist” by the end of April.
• The remote cameras will not be idle over the next few months, and will be used in a trial to detect potoroos and bandicoots in areas where we have poor trap success, in order to test the efficacy of trapping and hairtubing programs, especially for Long-nosed Bandicoots, which appear particularly difficult to survey with standard techniques. The cameras will also be used an index to monitor fox abundance in areas where foxes are yet to be controlled, and if successful, will be used again once fox control has commenced, in order to provide a measure of the effectiveness of the control program.



Component 2: Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot Monitoring Program

 Purchase of 100 traps to undertake intensive monitoring of endangered Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot populations to fox control across seven study sites ($11,500)
 Employment of 2 casual staff to assist with potoroo and bandicoot surveys over seven sites ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 7 hour days x 35 days = $14,700). Note: each of the seven sites is surveyed for 5 days, resulting in a total of 35 days of field work.

 Purchase 100 traps by August 2008.
 Undertake survey of seven sites during November/December 2008.
 Report prepared on trapping results by March 2009.
 Repeat trapping program in 2009 and in subsequent years (funding not being requested for this at this stage).



Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1 - 3:

• A number of potential sites have been identified for survey, including one site where Southern Brown Bandicoots appear to be making a strong recovery, based on hairtube results. The site, on Old Coast Road, has been surveyed by the Southern Ark team in conjunction with the local TAFE College as an education/training exercise over the last three years. This year the hairtubing effort was able to detect Southern Brown Bandicoots on 30 transects out of a possible 100, with 16% of hairtubes overall securing bandicoot hair (64 hairtubes from 400 hairtubes in total). This is a remarkably high level of detection, and we will use the cage traps purchased to monitor this site (as well as six other sites) over the next few years.
• Cage traps will be purchased from Mascots Wireworks over the next three weeks.
• The purchase of the cage-traps has been put on hold while a trial has commenced comparing the efficacy of cage-traps with remote cameras and hairtubes. This is being undertaken in areas known to support healthy populations of potoroos as well as in areas where potoroos are less abundant. More specifically, we are interested to determine if the cameras are detecting bandicoots at a higher frequency than cage-traps or hairtubes; there is some anecdotal evidence that they appear to be more reluctant to be detected by either cage-traps or hairtubes. Purchase of cage-traps will be put on hold until the results of this short trial are analysed and reported on in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).
• Two trials have in fact taken place since the last report, one which tested the efficacy of cameras with both hairtubes and traps as methods of detection, and one that investigated the behaviour of animals approaching traps. The data from the first trial does not appear to be robust enough to categorically state that one technique is more effective than any other, and plans are in place to repeat this early in 2009 (PhD student Alex Diment is undertaking this aspect of the study, supported by the Southern Ark Field Team). Interestingly, during the second trial, we photographed a number of instances were Long-nosed Potoroos did enter cage-traps, but failed to stand on the treadle that triggers the release mechanism for the door to shut, and they therefore did not get caught! The cameras that FAME sponsored for the quoll project were used during this work, and I intend to write this result up as a short note, and will acknowledge the contribution that FAME has made towards making this research possible. Despite the fact that potoroos on some occasions don’t get caught (I should add that on many more occasions they do get trapped!), and on the back of the results of the of some of the early data being generated by the hairtubing program this year, I intend (if this is approved by FAME) to proceed with the initial plan and purchase 100 cage traps, undertake a targeted survey of seven “hot spot” sites (as defined by positive hairtube results from the hairtubing program for potoroos and bandicoots) in April 2009 and in October 2009 (ie two surveys six months apart).


Recent Progress (since last update):

• 100 cage traps have been purchased and are now in East Gippsland. As a result of the large number of sites where both Long-nosed Potoroos and Southern Brown Bandicoots were recorded, we now have a number of sites where we can more closely examine the response of these species once fox control is initiated. As a result of the commitment from the Southern Ark team to fires, we will not be in a position to initiate the trapping of the seven hot-spot sites until May 2009.



Component 3: Construction of breeding enclosures for Diamond Pythons

Background:

 Purchase enclosures to house captive pythons by October 2008
 Identify locations that enclosures would be established by November 2008
 Establish enclosures by February 2009 (by which time pythons will have been captured, and held prior to breeding program).


Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1- 3:

• Three purpose-built enclosures have been purchased from Australian Fauna Supplies.
• Discussions have been initiated with Parks Victoria regarding the establishment of these enclosures on “Marshmead” a property owned by the Methodist Ladies College on the eastern side of Mallacoota Inlet. This site would be ideal as it is well within the known range of the species in Victoria, it would double as a useful education project, and as a working farm and educational facility for young teenage girls it maintains a constant security effort.
• The enclosures will be delivered to East Gippsland in mid June.
• The three enclosures have been delivered to East Gippsland, and are currently held in under-cover storage in the Southern Ark shed. They look well-made and robust, ideal for their intended purpose.
• Unfortunately, our colleagues in Parks Victoria had not progressed the discussions concerning the establishment of the breeding enclosures with the managers of “Marshmead”, and we will contact the managers directly to pursue this possibility.
• The possibility of securing wild pythons of local provenance to commence the breeding program has been discussed with both Parks Victoria staff, as well as with Eden-based staff of State Forests of New South Wales, and this approach has been received favourably, and now a project brief must be more fully circulated and considered.
• Very little to report on this component, other than recent changes in staffing in key positions in both Parks Victoria in Gippsland and Forests NSW in Eden have led to some fruitful informal discussions concerning the possibility of securing wild Diamond Pythons to commence the breeding program.
• An important goal over the next two months will be identifying where the captive breeding enclosures will be located, with Marshmead (Methodists Ladies College) remaining a strong candidate. A number of other local property owners have been canvassed, but none can guarantee the safety of the pythons, especially after-hours and on the week-ends.


Recent Progress (since last update):

• An important recent development has been the identification of a site upon which to establish the captive breeding enclosures. This site belongs to a private landholder, recently retired to Far East Gippsland, who is rehabilitating an area that was previously worked as a beef property. The landowner has recreated an area of wetland, undertaken a significant amount of work in weed removal and is looking to encourage wildlife back onto the property as much as possible. For reasons of security (of the pythons) and confidentiality, at this stage I prefer not to discuss where the location is, or the owner of the property, suffice to say it is well within the current distribution of the Diamond Python in Victoria.


Three Monthly Report No 5 Due: June 2009

Please direct all queries to Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray
Southern Ark Operations Manager
Department of Sustainability & Environment
PO Box 260 Orbost VIC 3888
Phone: 03 51 611 302
Mobile: 0419396948
andrew.murray@dse.vic.gov.au

Re: Long Nosed Potoroo/Spotted Tail Quoll Updates

Posted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 9:37 am
by ForumAdmin
FAME/EXETEL Southern Ark Sponsorship -Three Monthly Report No 5.


The last three months have seen the Southern Ark team get entirely back into the business of creating an environment in Far East Gippsland whereby native ground-dwelling mammals, birds and reptiles can flourish without the ever-present threat of foxes. Winter is well and truly upon us, but the fieldwork continues unabated while the conditions remain relatively dry and benign.

2008 Hairtubing Program

I can at last report that the final analysis of the major hairtubing program carried out in November last year is complete. Across the six sites surveyed we were able to secure 658 Long-nosed Potoroo, 143 Southern Brown Bandicoot and 652 Brush-tail Possum hair samples. As discussed in previous reports, this work has been carried out in areas where fox control has yet to be implemented, so these results mean that we have good founder populations from which a more rapid response from the mammal populations to fox control can take place. It also has determined where we will undertake the trapping of the “hot-spot” sites for potoroos and bandicoots (discussed below).

Please find below a report on the most recent developments of the FAME sponsorship of the Southern Ark project.

Component 1 – Spotted-tailed Quoll Monitoring Program

Background:

 Purchase of 30 remote digital cameras to monitor Spotted-tailed Quoll numbers at potential latrine sites ($24,000)

 Purchase 30 digital remote cameras by April 2008.
 Deploy 15 during the quoll breeding season in 2008 (May – August) at identified likely latrine sites.
 Deploy 15 at other locations on the Errinundra Plateau where quolls are likely to occur during the quoll breeding season (May – August) – student project, student identified who would monitor these cameras.
 At the end of the breeding season, report on the numbers of quolls identified – report complete by November 2008.
 Repeat in 2009 – compare results of quolls photographed with fox control effort.

 Employment of 2 casual staff to undertake targeted quoll surveys over two winters ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 10 hour days x 30 days x two winters = $36,000)


Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1 - 4:

• Following a review of available camera designs, we selected the Moultrie Game-spy l-60 remote camera, and we were able to purchase 40 cameras with the available budget.
• On advice from colleagues who have extensive experience in using remote cameras, we are ensuring that each unit is fully operational before being deployed in the field situation.
• In conjuction with an off-campus student from the University of New England (Rena Gaberov) we have developed a survey project of the Errinundra Plateau. Rena will manage 30 cameras, and deploy them across 90 sites over the next three months, with each site being surveyed for a month. The sites have been selected and monitoring will commence in mid June, and run through until mid September.
• A number of people have been canvassed regarding their potential employment in the latrine search survey component, and two suitable people have been tentatively selected to carry out this work. It is envisaged that survey work of potential latrine sites, along with the deployment of the other 10 remote cameras, will take place over six weeks during July-August 2008.
• Rena Gaberov has surveyed over 60 sites with the remote cameras on the Errinundra Plateau and Arte River areas to date.
• The cameras have been located in gully habitats likely to be frequented by Spotted-tailed Quolls. Each camera was aimed at a bait, which consisted of fresh chicken pieces placed within a wire-netting pouch, which was secured to the ground or a tree. While there have been some technical problems with a small number of cameras, overall the performance of the cameras has been good.
• No photographs of Spotted-tailed Quolls have been recorded. While this has been a disappointing result, it has reinforced the rarity of the species in East Gippsland, primarily as a result of competition/predation from the Red Fox. This survey provides baseline data against which we can compare the results from future surveys in this area, now that we have commenced ongoing fox control.
• Thousands of images were recorded, with Bush Rats, Agile and Dusky Antechinus, Brush-tail Possums and Water Rats being the species seen most often. All of these species were considerably interested in consuming the bait. The fact that there is an abundant population of smaller mammals willing and able to consume meat-based baits has important ramifications for any future proposal to undertake any type of baiting for dogs, foxes or cats using aerially deployed baits. It also reinforces the importance of the buried-bait method as a way to target foxes while minimising risks and bait-loss to non-target species.
• Other species photographed incidentally were Swamp Wallabies and Echidnas.
• A considerable number of cameras recorded Feral Cats, but no wild dogs were photographed, and, significantly, only two cameras photographed foxes. This is significant because when a similar project using remote cameras was carried out a year before ongoing fox control was implemented, over 30% of the cameras recorded foxes.
• The most significant result has been the incidental identification of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo at two survey locations on the Arte River. Communications from researchers working on this species have suggested the species has been recorded at two new locations. This species has only ever been captured in Victoria, although they may still exist in south-eastern New South Wales.
• Cameras from approximately another 20 sites have still to be collected and checked.
• Two people (Tim Field and Maria Cardoso) have been employed for six weeks and have undertaken a number of hairtubing surveys and searches for quoll latrines. At this point we await results back from the analysis of both hairtube tapes and scats, and this survey work will be more fully documented in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).
• None of the sites at which cameras were placed recorded any Spotted-tailed Quolls.
• Despite hairtubing a number of suitable locations, Tim Field and Maria Cardoso were unable to hairtube Spotted-tailed Quolls, although at one site on Martins Creek they did hairtube an endangered Long-footed Potoroo.
• Tim and Maria did collect multiple predator scats that may be Spotted-tailed Quoll scats, however full analysis of these has yet to be finalised.
• Rena and I have had initial discussions concerning the reporting of the camera survey, and I believe that in addition to the final report on the project that will be forwarded to FAME, it should be submitted to “The Victorian Naturalist” for publication. We will work on this publication over the next few months, with full acknowledgment of FAME as a sponsor of the project. Rena has been part of the hairtubing team during this last reporting period, and has not been able to complete her report as fully as she would like. She and I will work on this over January/February 2009.
• Rena has been plotting all of the study sites on ArcGIS in order to produce high-quality maps of the survey sites.
• Rena Gaberov has drafted an article detailing the range extension of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo on the Errinundra Plateau, as a result of two sites where the species was photographed during the FAME-sponsored quoll survey project. I am co-authoring this work, and aim to have the paper submitted to the “Victorian Naturalist” by the end of April.
• The remote cameras will not be idle over the next few months, and will be used in a trial to detect potoroos and bandicoots in areas where we have poor trap success, in order to test the efficacy of trapping and hairtubing programs, especially for Long-nosed Bandicoots, which appear particularly difficult to survey with standard techniques. The cameras will also be used an index to monitor fox abundance in areas where foxes are yet to be controlled, and if successful, will be used again once fox control has commenced, in order to provide a measure of the effectiveness of the control program.

Recent Progress (since last update):


• Following the very poor results of the camera survey on the Errinundra plateau to detect quolls, rather than repeat the survey in this area over such a short time frame, we will deploy the cameras across a large number of coastal and foothill forest sites in order to determine the presence of the species in areas where (a) terrestrial prey are more abundant due to the milder winter climate, and (b) where, in some areas, fox control has been occurring for a longer period of time.
• I have planned to use the cameras at 240 sites over the next 5-6 months, baited with chicken and left in situ for two-week periods.
• Rena Gaberov and I continue to work on the note concerning the Long-footed Potoroo photos, as well as the report concerning the Errinundra survey.
• I feel it is remiss of me not to have written something concerning this work for the FAME newsletter, and I will do so in the next month and forward that to Cheryl Hill with some photographs.

Component 2: Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot Monitoring Program

Background:

 Purchase of 100 traps to undertake intensive monitoring of endangered Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot populations to fox control across seven study sites ($11,500)
 Employment of 2 casual staff to assist with potoroo and bandicoot surveys over seven sites ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 7 hour days x 35 days = $14,700). Note: each of the seven sites is surveyed for 5 days, resulting in a total of 35 days of field work.

 Purchase 100 traps by August 2008.
 Undertake survey of seven sites during November/December 2008.
 Report prepared on trapping results by March 2009.
 Repeat trapping program in 2009 and in subsequent years (funding not being requested for this at this stage).

Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1 – 4:

• A number of potential sites have been identified for survey, including one site where Southern Brown Bandicoots appear to be making a strong recovery, based on hairtube results. The site, on Old Coast Road, has been surveyed by the Southern Ark team in conjunction with the local TAFE College as an education/training exercise over the last three years. This year the hairtubing effort was able to detect Southern Brown Bandicoots on 30 transects out of a possible 100, with 16% of hairtubes overall securing bandicoot hair (64 hairtubes from 400 hairtubes in total). This is a remarkably high level of detection, and we will use the cage traps purchased to monitor this site (as well as six other sites) over the next few years.
• Cage traps will be purchased from Mascots Wireworks over the next three weeks.
• The purchase of the cage-traps has been put on hold while a trial has commenced comparing the efficacy of cage-traps with remote cameras and hairtubes. This is being undertaken in areas known to support healthy populations of potoroos as well as in areas where potoroos are less abundant. More specifically, we are interested to determine if the cameras are detecting bandicoots at a higher frequency than cage-traps or hairtubes; there is some anecdotal evidence that they appear to be more reluctant to be detected by either cage-traps or hairtubes. Purchase of cage-traps will be put on hold until the results of this short trial are analysed and reported on in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).
• Two trials have in fact taken place since the last report, one which tested the efficacy of cameras with both hairtubes and traps as methods of detection, and one that investigated the behaviour of animals approaching traps. The data from the first trial does not appear to be robust enough to categorically state that one technique is more effective than any other, and plans are in place to repeat this early in 2009 (PhD student Alex Diment is undertaking this aspect of the study, supported by the Southern Ark Field Team). Interestingly, during the second trial, we photographed a number of instances were Long-nosed Potoroos did enter cage-traps, but failed to stand on the treadle that triggers the release mechanism for the door to shut, and they therefore did not get caught! The cameras that FAME sponsored for the quoll project were used during this work, and I intend to write this result up as a short note, and will acknowledge the contribution that FAME has made towards making this research possible. Despite the fact that potoroos on some occasions don’t get caught (I should add that on many more occasions they do get trapped!), and on the back of the results of the of some of the early data being generated by the hairtubing program this year, I intend (if this is approved by FAME) to proceed with the initial plan and purchase 100 cage traps, undertake a targeted survey of seven “hot spot” sites (as defined by positive hairtube results from the hairtubing program for potoroos and bandicoots) in April 2009 and in October 2009 (ie two surveys six months apart).
• 100 cage traps have been purchased and are now in East Gippsland. As a result of the large number of sites where both Long-nosed Potoroos and Southern Brown Bandicoots were recorded, we now have a number of sites where we can more closely examine the response of these species once fox control is initiated. As a result of the commitment from the Southern Ark team to fires, we will not be in a position to initiate the trapping of the seven hot-spot sites until May 2009.

Recent Progress (since last update):

• As discussed above, we have now identified a number of areas in Far East Gippsland where we have consistently hairtubed Long-nosed Potoroos and Southern Brown Bandicoots, and we will now implement a trapping program to monitor the status of these populations over time as the fox control program is implemented. If our experience at Cape Conran is anything to go by, these populations will respond positively to the reduced predation pressure.

• There are eight “hot-spot” sites that we will trap over four nights in August and again in October:
o 2 x Tamboon
o 4 x Mueller
o 2 x Drummer
• At each of these sites a transect of 50 traps will be established at 200m intervals along the road adjacent to where the mammals were hairtubed consistently, to give a 10km trapping transect. All potoroos, bandiccots and possums caught will be microchipped, weighed, sexed, and released at the point of capture. All potoroos and Southern Brown bandicoots will also have a tissue sample taken for further genetic analysis.

Component 3: Construction of breeding enclosures for Diamond Pythons

Background:

 Purchase enclosures to house captive pythons by October 2008
 Identify locations that enclosures would be established by November 2008
 Establish enclosures by February 2009 (by which time pythons will have been captured, and held prior to breeding program).

Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1- 4:

• Three purpose-built enclosures have been purchased from Australian Fauna Supplies.
• Discussions have been initiated with Parks Victoria regarding the establishment of these enclosures on “Marshmead” a property owned by the Methodist Ladies College on the eastern side of Mallacoota Inlet. This site would be ideal as it is well within the known range of the species in Victoria, it would double as a useful education project, and as a working farm and educational facility for young teenage girls it maintains a constant security effort.
• The enclosures will be delivered to East Gippsland in mid June.
• The three enclosures have been delivered to East Gippsland, and are currently held in under-cover storage in the Southern Ark shed. They look well-made and robust, ideal for their intended purpose.
• Unfortunately, our colleagues in Parks Victoria had not progressed the discussions concerning the establishment of the breeding enclosures with the managers of “Marshmead”, and we will contact the managers directly to pursue this possibility.
• The possibility of securing wild pythons of local provenance to commence the breeding program has been discussed with both Parks Victoria staff, as well as with Eden-based staff of State Forests of New South Wales, and this approach has been received favourably, and now a project brief must be more fully circulated and considered.
• Very little to report on this component, other than recent changes in staffing in key positions in both Parks Victoria in Gippsland and Forests NSW in Eden have led to some fruitful informal discussions concerning the possibility of securing wild Diamond Pythons to commence the breeding program.
• An important goal over the next two months will be identifying where the captive breeding enclosures will be located, with Marshmead (Methodists Ladies College) remaining a strong candidate. A number of other local property owners have been canvassed, but none can guarantee the safety of the pythons, especially after-hours and on the week-ends.
• An important recent development has been the identification of a site upon which to establish the captive breeding enclosures. This site belongs to a private landholder, recently retired to Far East Gippsland, who is rehabilitating an area that was previously worked as a beef property. The landowner has recreated an area of wetland, undertaken a significant amount of work in weed removal and is looking to encourage wildlife back onto the property as much as possible. For reasons of security (of the pythons) and confidentiality, at this stage I prefer not to discuss where the location is, or the owner of the property, suffice to say it is well within the current distribution of the Diamond Python in Victoria.

Recent Progress (since last update):

• Further discussions have taken place in regard to the establishment of the breeding enclosures on the private property in East Gippsland. Sites for the breeding enclosures have been identified, and work on constructing these sites will commence once the owner, who is currently overseas, returns.
• Work on a project brief that outlines the taking of pythons from the wild locally will commence shortly, and the Animal Ethics application form will be completed in the next few months.
• The majority of the range of Diamond Pythons in Victoria occurs in Croajingolong National Park, and the Parks Victoria staff are aware of the aims of the project and support it in principle.

Three Monthly Report No 6 Due: September 2009

Please direct all queries to Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray
Southern Ark Operations Manager
Department of Sustainability & Environment
PO Box 260 Orbost VIC 3888
Phone: 03 51 611 302
Mobile: 0419396948
andrew.murray@dse.vic.gov.au

Re: Long Nosed Potoroo/Spotted Tail Quoll Updates

Posted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 9:42 am
by Shady
FAME/EXETEL Southern Ark Sponsorship -Three Monthly Report No 6.

July - September 2009

The last three months have been a very busy period for the Southern Ark team, and as I write we are about to embark on the annual five-week hairtubing program. While not directly related to the sponsorship from FAME, here are a few highlights for the last three months work which I hope you find interesting:
  • - Hosted the annual week-long camp in July for 100 Deakin University students at Cape Conran; we captured approximately 60 individual Long-nosed Potoroos. This is the only place I know of where such a large group of tertiary students can get the opportunity to catch, weigh, measure and microchip potoroos, possums and bandicoots.

    - Capture of Long-footed Potoroo at Cape Conran (southern most, and the most coastal record of the species, see below for more details).

    - Hairtubing session with Deakin students on Old Coast Road – hairtubes on 13 of 29 transects secured hair from Southern Brown Bandicoots (44.8% hit-rate, very high hit-rate for this nationally-endangered species).

    - I gave an overview of the Southern Ark project presented to the La Trobe Valley Field Naturalists Club in Moe (powerpoint presentation).

    - Cage-trapping sessions conducted on West Coast and Stony Peak Study Sites – generally very poor capture success, not sure why.

    - We commenced toxic baiting for foxes across the Conran Fox Management Sector. This brings the total area under fox control to 758,000 hectares.

    - Carried out week-long trapping session in Coopracambra National Park, where Parks Victoria has seven trapping grids established. Generally poor results, however this may in part be due the small trap size being used, the traps being subject to considerable interference by brushtail possums. We have requested Parks Victoria purchase larger traps, and they have agreed to do so.

    - Remote cameras placed at Swampy Creek Walking Track (Cape Conran) recorded the presence of Long-footed Potoroos in August, so the capture of the female in July was not a one-off (see below for more information).

    - I visited the Bush Family Reserve on the Gippsland Plains with Brett Mills (Trust for Nature) to discuss fox control and mammal (Southern Brown Bandicoot and Tasmanian Bettong) translocation possibilities.

    - Radio Interview: I spoke with Celine Foenander (morning presenter ABC Gippsland) about the Long-footed Potoroo at Cape Conran.

    - Radio Interview: I spoke with Mark de Bono (ABC Gippsland Radio News) on the discovery of the Long-footed Potoroo at Cape Conran.

    - Press Release: “Baiting program for far east” – Snowy River Mail 26/9/09 (Reports on the Community Fox Baiting Program at Deddick).

    - Press Release: “Assisting Tubbut graziers” – Snowy River Mail 24/6/09 (Reports on the efforts that the Southern Ark team are making to assist the landholders with regard to controlling dogs and foxes).

    - Press Release: “Long-footed potoroo a rare find indeed” – Snowy River Mail 5/8/09 (Reports on trapping of LFP at Cape Conran).

    - Press Release: “Potoroo hops back from brink” – Herald Sun 31/7/09 (Reports on trapping of LFP at Cape Conran).

    - ABC Website News article: “Rare find in Gippsland” 28/7/09 (Reports on trapping of LFP at Cape Conran).

    - Inform Article: “Not so much Big Foot, as Long Foot” 30/7/09 (Reports on trapping of LFP at Cape Conran).
Please find below a report on the most recent developments of the Exetel/FAME sponsorship of the Southern Ark project.

Component 1 – Spotted-tailed Quoll Monitoring Program

Background:
  • - Purchase of 30 remote digital cameras to monitor Spotted-tailed Quoll numbers at potential latrine sites ($24,000)
    • - Purchase 30 digital remote cameras by April 2008.

      - Deploy 15 during the quoll breeding season in 2008 (May – August) at identified likely latrine sites.

      - Deploy 15 at other locations on the Errinundra Plateau where quolls are likely to occur during the quoll breeding season (May – August) – student project, student identified who would monitor these cameras.

      - At the end of the breeding season, report on the numbers of quolls identified – report complete by November 2008.

      - Repeat in 2009 – compare results of quolls photographed with fox control effort.
    - Employment of 2 casual staff to undertake targeted quoll surveys over two winters ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 10 hour days x 30 days x two winters = $36,000)
Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1 - 5:
  • - Following a review of available camera designs, we selected the Moultrie Game-spy l-60 remote camera, and we were able to purchase 40 cameras with the available budget.

    - On advice from colleagues who have extensive experience in using remote cameras, we are ensuring that each unit is fully operational before being deployed in the field situation.

    - In conjuction with an off-campus student from the University of New England (Rena Gaberov) we have developed a survey project of the Errinundra Plateau. Rena will manage 30 cameras, and deploy them across 90 sites over the next three months, with each site being surveyed for a month. The sites have been selected and monitoring will commence in mid June, and run through until mid September.

    - A number of people have been canvassed regarding their potential employment in the latrine search survey component, and two suitable people have been tentatively selected to carry out this work. It is envisaged that survey work of potential latrine sites, along with the deployment of the other 10 remote cameras, will take place over six weeks during July-August 2008.

    - Rena Gaberov has surveyed over 60 sites with the remote cameras on the Errinundra Plateau and Arte River areas to date.

    - The cameras have been located in gully habitats likely to be frequented by Spotted-tailed Quolls. Each camera was aimed at a bait, which consisted of fresh chicken pieces placed within a wire-netting pouch, which was secured to the ground or a tree. While there have been some technical problems with a small number of cameras, overall the performance of the cameras has been good.

    - No photographs of Spotted-tailed Quolls have been recorded. While this has been a disappointing result, it has reinforced the rarity of the species in East Gippsland, primarily as a result of competition/predation from the Red Fox. This survey provides baseline data against which we can compare the results from future surveys in this area, now that we have commenced ongoing fox control.

    - Thousands of images were recorded, with Bush Rats, Agile and Dusky Antechinus, Brush-tail Possums and Water Rats being the species seen most often. All of these species were considerably interested in consuming the bait. The fact that there is an abundant population of smaller mammals willing and able to consume meat-based baits has important ramifications for any future proposal to undertake any type of baiting for dogs, foxes or cats using aerially deployed baits. It also reinforces the importance of the buried-bait method as a way to target foxes while minimising risks and bait-loss to non-target species.
    Other species photographed incidentally were Swamp Wallabies and Echidnas.

    - A considerable number of cameras recorded Feral Cats, but no wild dogs were photographed, and, significantly, only two cameras photographed foxes. This is significant because when a similar project using remote cameras was carried out a year before ongoing fox control was implemented, over 30% of the cameras recorded foxes.

    - The most significant result has been the incidental identification of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo at two survey locations on the Arte River. Communications from researchers working on this species have suggested the species has been recorded at two new locations. This species has only ever been captured in Victoria, although they may still exist in south-eastern New South Wales.
    Cameras from approximately another 20 sites have still to be collected and checked.

    Two people (Tim Field and Maria Cardoso) have been employed for six weeks and have undertaken a number of hairtubing surveys and searches for quoll latrines. At this point we await results back from the analysis of both hairtube tapes and scats, and this survey work will be more fully documented in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).

    - None of the sites at which cameras were placed recorded any Spotted-tailed Quolls.

    - Despite hairtubing a number of suitable locations, Tim Field and Maria Cardoso were unable to hairtube Spotted-tailed Quolls, although at one site on Martins Creek they did hairtube an endangered Long-footed Potoroo.

    - Tim and Maria did collect multiple predator scats that may be Spotted-tailed Quoll scats, however full analysis of these has yet to be finalised.

    - Rena and I have had initial discussions concerning the reporting of the camera survey, and I believe that in addition to the final report on the project that will be forwarded to FAME, it should be submitted to “The Victorian Naturalist” for publication. We will work on this publication over the next few months, with full acknowledgment of FAME as a sponsor of the project. Rena has been part of the hairtubing team during this last reporting period, and has not been able to complete her report as fully as she would like. She and I will work on this over January/February 2009.

    - Rena has been plotting all of the study sites on ArcGIS in order to produce high-quality maps of the survey sites.

    - Rena Gaberov has drafted an article detailing the range extension of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo on the Errinundra Plateau, as a result of two sites where the species was photographed during the FAME-sponsored quoll survey project. I am co-authoring this work, and aim to have the paper submitted to the “Victorian Naturalist” by the end of April.

    - The remote cameras will not be idle over the next few months, and will be used in a trial to detect potoroos and bandicoots in areas where we have poor trap success, in order to test the efficacy of trapping and hairtubing programs, especially for Long-nosed Bandicoots, which appear particularly difficult to survey with standard techniques. The cameras will also be used an index to monitor fox abundance in areas where foxes are yet to be controlled, and if successful, will be used again once fox control has commenced, in order to provide a measure of the effectiveness of the control program.

    - Following the very poor results of the camera survey on the Errinundra plateau to detect quolls, rather than repeat the survey in this area over such a short time frame, we will deploy the cameras across a large number of coastal and foothill forest sites in order to determine the presence of the species in areas where (a) terrestrial prey are more abundant due to the milder winter climate, and (b) where, in some areas, fox control has been occurring for a longer period of time.

    - I have planned to use the cameras at 240 sites over the next 5-6 months, baited with chicken and left in situ for two-week periods.

    - Rena Gaberov and I continue to work on the note concerning the Long-footed Potoroo photos, as well as the report concerning the Errinundra survey.

    - I feel it is remiss of me not to have written something concerning this work for the FAME newsletter, and I will do so in the next month and forward that to Cheryl Hill with some photographs.


Recent Progress (since last update):
  • - All of the cameras continue to be located in the field, with the majority placed in the hope of photographing quolls. A small number of cameras, however, have been used to monitor the site at Cape Conran where an endangered Long-footed Potoroo was cage-trapped in July, during a regular trapping session. The Long-footed Potoroo captured was an adult female, in excellent condition. Her capture was a real surprise; while the area has a robust population of Long-nosed Potoroos, that is increasing as a result of 10 years of effective fox control, the area is not really considered to be Long-footed Potoroo habitat, given it’s proximity to the coast, and it’s sandy soils. In order to determine if the capture of this Long-footed Potoroo was a one-off, or if there were more Long-foots out there, I placed three cameras in the general area where the female was captured. Quite surprisingly, two of the cameras recorded images of Long-footed Potoroos, with one camera photographing a pair of Long-footed Potoroos!. The Long-foots can be distinguished from Long-nosed Potoroos by their generally more robust stature and by their thick tails. This is an exciting development, but as is often the case, it results in more questions than answers! Have the Long-foots always been there, and we just haven’t encountered them before? Have they always been there is small numbers and are just starting to increase to a point where can now trap and photograph them more readily? Are they simply re-occupying habitat they once occurred in, now that the fox population has been significantly controlled? Hopefully we can start to answer these questions over the next 12 months or so. Regardless of the answers, we now have an area (Cape Conran) that is inhabited by both Long-nosed and Long-footed Potoroos, as well as having both Southern Brown and Long-nosed Bandicoots. Throw in Brushtail Possums and Ringtail Possums, two species of antechinus, Bush Rats, Swamp Rats, Water Rats, Swamp Wallabies and Echidnas, and what you have is a pretty diverse site for mammals.
Component 2: Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot Monitoring Program

Background:
  • - Purchase of 100 traps to undertake intensive monitoring of endangered Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot populations to fox control across seven study sites ($11,500)
    Employment of 2 casual staff to assist with potoroo and bandicoot surveys over seven sites ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 7 hour days x 35 days = $14,700). Note: each of the seven sites is surveyed for 5 days, resulting in a total of 35 days of field work.
    • - Purchase 100 traps by August 2008.
      - Undertake survey of seven sites during November/December 2008.
      - Report prepared on trapping results by March 2009.
      - Repeat trapping program in 2009 and in subsequent years (funding not being requested for this at this stage).
Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1 – 5:
  • - A number of potential sites have been identified for survey, including one site where Southern Brown Bandicoots appear to be making a strong recovery, based on hairtube results. The site, on Old Coast Road, has been surveyed by the Southern Ark team in conjunction with the local TAFE College as an education/training exercise over the last three years. This year the hairtubing effort was able to detect Southern Brown Bandicoots on 30 transects out of a possible 100, with 16% of hairtubes overall securing bandicoot hair (64 hairtubes from 400 hairtubes in total). This is a remarkably high level of detection, and we will use the cage traps purchased to monitor this site (as well as six other sites) over the next few years.

    - Cage traps will be purchased from Mascots Wireworks over the next three weeks.

    - The purchase of the cage-traps has been put on hold while a trial has commenced comparing the efficacy of cage-traps with remote cameras and hairtubes. This is being undertaken in areas known to support healthy populations of potoroos as well as in areas where potoroos are less abundant. More specifically, we are interested to determine if the cameras are detecting bandicoots at a higher frequency than cage-traps or hairtubes; there is some anecdotal evidence that they appear to be more reluctant to be detected by either cage-traps or hairtubes. Purchase of cage-traps will be put on hold until the results of this short trial are analysed and reported on in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).

    - Two trials have in fact taken place since the last report, one which tested the efficacy of cameras with both hairtubes and traps as methods of detection, and one that investigated the behaviour of animals approaching traps. The data from the first trial does not appear to be robust enough to categorically state that one technique is more effective than any other, and plans are in place to repeat this early in 2009 (PhD student Alex Diment is undertaking this aspect of the study, supported by the Southern Ark Field Team). Interestingly, during the second trial, we photographed a number of instances were Long-nosed Potoroos did enter cage-traps, but failed to stand on the treadle that triggers the release mechanism for the door to shut, and they therefore did not get caught! The cameras that FAME sponsored for the quoll project were used during this work, and I intend to write this result up as a short note, and will acknowledge the contribution that FAME has made towards making this research possible. Despite the fact that potoroos on some occasions don’t get caught (I should add that on many more occasions they do get trapped!), and on the back of the results of the of some of the early data being generated by the hairtubing program this year, I intend (if this is approved by FAME) to proceed with the initial plan and purchase 100 cage traps, undertake a targeted survey of seven “hot spot” sites (as defined by positive hairtube results from the hairtubing program for potoroos and bandicoots) in April 2009 and in October 2009 (ie two surveys six months apart).

    - 100 cage traps have been purchased and are now in East Gippsland. As a result of the large number of sites where both Long-nosed Potoroos and Southern Brown Bandicoots were recorded, we now have a number of sites where we can more closely examine the response of these species once fox control is initiated. As a result of the commitment from the Southern Ark team to fires, we will not be in a position to initiate the trapping of the seven hot-spot sites until May 2009.

    - As discussed above, we have now identified a number of areas in Far East Gippsland where we have consistently hairtubed Long-nosed Potoroos and Southern Brown Bandicoots, and we will now implement a trapping program to monitor the status of these populations over time as the fox control program is implemented. If our experience at Cape Conran is anything to go by, these populations will respond positively to the reduced predation pressure.

    - There are eight “hot-spot” sites that we will trap over four nights in August and again in October:
    • - 2 x Tamboon
      - 4 x Mueller
      - 2 x Drummer
    - At each of these sites a transect of 50 traps will be established at 200m intervals along the road adjacent to where the mammals were hairtubed consistently, to give a 10km trapping transect. All potoroos, bandiccots and possums caught will be microchipped, weighed, sexed, and released at the point of capture. All potoroos and Southern Brown bandicoots will also have a tissue sample taken for further genetic analysis.
Recent Progress (since last update):
  • - The first sites in Mueller have been trapped, with a rather disappointing single potoroo captured and microchipped. Disappointing in as much as the area trapped had produced numerous “hits” on hairtubes during last year’s hairtubing program, and we expected more captures. I shall report back on the results for the remaining sites during the next report.
Component 3: Construction of breeding enclosures for Diamond Pythons

Background:
  • - Purchase enclosures to house captive pythons by October 2008
    - Identify locations that enclosures would be established by November 2008
    - Establish enclosures by February 2009 (by which time pythons will have been captured, and held prior to breeding program).
Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1- 5:
  • - Three purpose-built enclosures have been purchased from Australian Fauna Supplies.

    - Discussions have been initiated with Parks Victoria regarding the establishment of these enclosures on “Marshmead” a property owned by the Methodist Ladies College on the eastern side of Mallacoota Inlet. This site would be ideal as it is well within the known range of the species in Victoria, it would double as a useful education project, and as a working farm and educational facility for young teenage girls it maintains a constant security effort.

    - The enclosures will be delivered to East Gippsland in mid June.

    - The three enclosures have been delivered to East Gippsland, and are currently held in under-cover storage in the Southern Ark shed. They look well-made and robust, ideal for their intended purpose.
    Unfortunately, our colleagues in Parks Victoria had not progressed the discussions concerning the establishment of the breeding enclosures with the managers of “Marshmead”, and we will contact the managers directly to pursue this possibility.

    - The possibility of securing wild pythons of local provenance to commence the breeding program has been discussed with both Parks Victoria staff, as well as with Eden-based staff of State Forests of New South Wales, and this approach has been received favourably, and now a project brief must be more fully circulated and considered.

    - Very little to report on this component, other than recent changes in staffing in key positions in both Parks Victoria in Gippsland and Forests NSW in Eden have led to some fruitful informal discussions concerning the possibility of securing wild Diamond Pythons to commence the breeding program.

    - An important goal over the next two months will be identifying where the captive breeding enclosures will be located, with Marshmead (Methodists Ladies College) remaining a strong candidate. A number of other local property owners have been canvassed, but none can guarantee the safety of the pythons, especially after-hours and on the week-ends.

    - An important recent development has been the identification of a site upon which to establish the captive breeding enclosures. This site belongs to a private landholder, recently retired to Far East Gippsland, who is rehabilitating an area that was previously worked as a beef property. The landowner has recreated an area of wetland, undertaken a significant amount of work in weed removal and is looking to encourage wildlife back onto the property as much as possible. For reasons of security (of the pythons) and confidentiality, at this stage I prefer not to discuss where the location is, or the owner of the property, suffice to say it is well within the current distribution of the Diamond Python in Victoria.

    - Further discussions have taken place in regard to the establishment of the breeding enclosures on the private property in East Gippsland. Sites for the breeding enclosures have been identified, and work on constructing these sites will commence once the owner, who is currently overseas, returns.

    - Work on a project brief that outlines the taking of pythons from the wild locally will commence shortly, and the Animal Ethics application form will be completed in the next few months.

    - The majority of the range of Diamond Pythons in Victoria occurs in Croajingolong National Park, and the Parks Victoria staff are aware of the aims of the project and support it in principle.
Recent Progress (since last update):
  • - The first breeding enclosure has been transported to the private property involved and constructed. This property is already inhabited by a resident Diamond Python (nick-named, not surprisingly, “Monty”), and we hope to put together a program whereby lots of juvenile pythons can be returned to the wild.

    - The owner of the property (where we hope to undertake the python breeding) and I recently visited Mr Russell Grant, a Melbourne-based expert in breeding pythons in general and Diamond Pythons in particular. We discussed the general proposal and discussed the equipment we will need. Russell was a great help, and he obviously has great enthusiasm for pythons and python conservation. He willingly offered to give us any help he can, but vigorously agreed with us that we should NOT physically involve anyone in the project that currently breeds or maintains reptiles for fear of releasing pythons that may carry disease or parasites that could be detrimental to reptiles in the wild.

    - Work on the project brief that outlines the taking of pythons from the wild locally was put on hold until we had met and discussed the proposal with Russell Grant, but this can now commence.
    I am still seeking some results of a Diamond Python radio-tracking project at Booderee National Park at Jervis Bay, which may provide some important data.
Three Monthly Report No 7 Due: December 2009


Please direct all queries to Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray
Southern Ark Operations Manager
Department of Sustainability & Environment
PO Box 260 Orbost VIC 3888
Phone: 03 51 611 302
Mobile: 0419396948
andrew.murray@dse.vic.gov.au

Re: Long Nosed Potoroo/Spotted Tail Quoll Updates

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:57 pm
by raymond
FAME/EXETEL Southern Ark Sponsorship -Three Monthly Report No 7.

October - December 2009

The major activity of the Southern Ark team during this reporting period has been the major annual wildlife monitoring program undertaken over six weeks in October-November. This is a mammoth undertaking: 360 hairtube grids are involved, each covering one hectare, with nine hairtubes established at each grid. There are 60 grids in each of six large study sites, each of which covers 20,000 hectares. Once established, the hairtubes are then checked each week over four weeks, and those hairtubes that have retained hair (or that have been affected by rain-splash) are replaced with fresh hairtubes. During each visit fresh bait (with a slightly different odour) is added to each tea-infuser that is used for each hairtube as a bait holder. The Southern Ark team employs 10 extra staff (Deakin University Wildlife Management students) to assist with the program, and pairs of staff worked out of 8 vehicles.

A total of 12,960 hairtubes are put out and/or checked, and 6,537 samples (51% of hairtubes put out) were sent to Barbara Triggs for identification. The analysis of the data from the final week has not yet been completed, but so far we have recorded the nationally endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot on 99 occasions and the nationally threatened Long-nosed Potoroos on 514 occasions. These results give us reason for real optimism, given that fox control has not been initiated in some of the sites.

Fire-fighting duties have also been unfortunately taking up our time with staff involved in the Dock Inlet fire (started on the 2nd of November, growing to 4,667 hectares), the Myrgatroyd Track fire (started on the 16th of December, growing to 6,694 hectares) the Keystone Track fire (started on the 22nd of December, and growing to 88 hectares), and the West Wingan Road fire (started on the 16th of December, growing to 10 hectares).

Fox control continues across the majority of the Southern Ark Area of Operation with only the Croajingolong Fox Management Sector remaining unpoisoned. This will change in the next month, following a trial in which we are trialling a new toxin called PAPP (Para-aminopropiophenone) which could be an alternative to 1080 for fox and cat control. The Southern Ark team have also been putting plenty of effort into fox control along the Far East Gippsland coastline, especially around the mouth of the Snowy River to protect Little Terns, Hooded Plovers and Pied Oystercatchers. Baiting foxes along the coast is proving to be challenging, as it appears that foxes focus their attention on scavenging along the high-tide mark, and it has taken them some time to notice our bait stations established in the dunes.

While not directly related to the sponsorship from FAME, here are a few highlights for the last three months work which I hope you find interesting:

Please find below a report on the most recent developments of the FAME/EXETEL sponsorship of the Southern Ark project.

Component 1 – Spotted-tailed Quoll Monitoring Program

Background:


 Purchase of 30 remote digital cameras to monitor Spotted-tailed Quoll numbers at potential latrine sites ($24,000)
 Purchase 30 digital remote cameras by April 2008.
 Deploy 15 during the quoll breeding season in 2008 (May – August) at identified likely latrine sites.
 Deploy 15 at other locations on the Errinundra Plateau where quolls are likely to occur during the quoll breeding season (May – August) – student project, student identified who would monitor these cameras.
 At the end of the breeding season, report on the numbers of quolls identified – report complete by November 2008.
 Repeat in 2009 – compare results of quolls photographed with fox control effort.

 Employment of 2 casual staff to undertake targeted quoll surveys over two winters ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 10 hour days x 30 days x two winters = $36,000)


Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1 - 5:

• Following a review of available camera designs, we selected the Moultrie Game-spy l-60 remote camera, and we were able to purchase 40 cameras with the available budget.
• On advice from colleagues who have extensive experience in using remote cameras, we are ensuring that each unit is fully operational before being deployed in the field situation.
• In conjuction with an off-campus student from the University of New England (Rena Gaberov) we have developed a survey project of the Errinundra Plateau. Rena will manage 30 cameras, and deploy them across 90 sites over the next three months, with each site being surveyed for a month. The sites have been selected and monitoring will commence in mid June, and run through until mid September.
• A number of people have been canvassed regarding their potential employment in the latrine search survey component, and two suitable people have been tentatively selected to carry out this work. It is envisaged that survey work of potential latrine sites, along with the deployment of the other 10 remote cameras, will take place over six weeks during July-August 2008.
• Rena Gaberov has surveyed over 60 sites with the remote cameras on the Errinundra Plateau and Arte River areas to date.
• The cameras have been located in gully habitats likely to be frequented by Spotted-tailed Quolls. Each camera was aimed at a bait, which consisted of fresh chicken pieces placed within a wire-netting pouch, which was secured to the ground or a tree. While there have been some technical problems with a small number of cameras, overall the performance of the cameras has been good.
• No photographs of Spotted-tailed Quolls have been recorded. While this has been a disappointing result, it has reinforced the rarity of the species in East Gippsland, primarily as a result of competition/predation from the Red Fox. This survey provides baseline data against which we can compare the results from future surveys in this area, now that we have commenced ongoing fox control.
• Thousands of images were recorded, with Bush Rats, Agile and Dusky Antechinus, Brush-tail Possums and Water Rats being the species seen most often. All of these species were considerably interested in consuming the bait. The fact that there is an abundant population of smaller mammals willing and able to consume meat-based baits has important ramifications for any future proposal to undertake any type of baiting for dogs, foxes or cats using aerially deployed baits. It also reinforces the importance of the buried-bait method as a way to target foxes while minimising risks and bait-loss to non-target species.
• Other species photographed incidentally were Swamp Wallabies and Echidnas.
• A considerable number of cameras recorded Feral Cats, but no wild dogs were photographed, and, significantly, only two cameras photographed foxes. This is significant because when a similar project using remote cameras was carried out a year before ongoing fox control was implemented, over 30% of the cameras recorded foxes.
• The most significant result has been the incidental identification of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo at two survey locations on the Arte River. Communications from researchers working on this species have suggested the species has been recorded at two new locations. This species has only ever been captured in Victoria, although they may still exist in south-eastern New South Wales.
• Cameras from approximately another 20 sites have still to be collected and checked.
• Two people (Tim Field and Maria Cardoso) have been employed for six weeks and have undertaken a number of hairtubing surveys and searches for quoll latrines. At this point we await results back from the analysis of both hairtube tapes and scats, and this survey work will be more fully documented in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).
• None of the sites at which cameras were placed recorded any Spotted-tailed Quolls.
• Despite hairtubing a number of suitable locations, Tim Field and Maria Cardoso were unable to hairtube Spotted-tailed Quolls, although at one site on Martins Creek they did hairtube an endangered Long-footed Potoroo.
• Tim and Maria did collect multiple predator scats that may be Spotted-tailed Quoll scats, however full analysis of these has yet to be finalised.
• Rena and I have had initial discussions concerning the reporting of the camera survey, and I believe that in addition to the final report on the project that will be forwarded to FAME, it should be submitted to “The Victorian Naturalist” for publication. We will work on this publication over the next few months, with full acknowledgment of FAME as a sponsor of the project. Rena has been part of the hairtubing team during this last reporting period, and has not been able to complete her report as fully as she would like. She and I will work on this over January/February 2009.
• Rena has been plotting all of the study sites on ArcGIS in order to produce high-quality maps of the survey sites.
• Rena Gaberov has drafted an article detailing the range extension of the endangered Long-footed Potoroo on the Errinundra Plateau, as a result of two sites where the species was photographed during the FAME-sponsored quoll survey project. I am co-authoring this work, and aim to have the paper submitted to the “Victorian Naturalist” by the end of April.
• The remote cameras will not be idle over the next few months, and will be used in a trial to detect potoroos and bandicoots in areas where we have poor trap success, in order to test the efficacy of trapping and hairtubing programs, especially for Long-nosed Bandicoots, which appear particularly difficult to survey with standard techniques. The cameras will also be used an index to monitor fox abundance in areas where foxes are yet to be controlled, and if successful, will be used again once fox control has commenced, in order to provide a measure of the effectiveness of the control program.
• Following the very poor results of the camera survey on the Errinundra plateau to detect quolls, rather than repeat the survey in this area over such a short time frame, we will deploy the cameras across a large number of coastal and foothill forest sites in order to determine the presence of the species in areas where (a) terrestrial prey are more abundant due to the milder winter climate, and (b) where, in some areas, fox control has been occurring for a longer period of time.
• I have planned to use the cameras at 240 sites over the next 5-6 months, baited with chicken and left in situ for two-week periods.
• Rena Gaberov and I continue to work on the note concerning the Long-footed Potoroo photos, as well as the report concerning the Errinundra survey.
• I feel it is remiss of me not to have written something concerning this work for the FAME newsletter, and I will do so in the next month and forward that to Cheryl Hill with some photographs.

• All of the cameras continue to be located in the field, with the majority placed in the hope of photographing quolls. A small number of cameras, however, have been used to monitor the site at Cape Conran where an endangered Long-footed Potoroo was cage-trapped in July, during a regular trapping session. The Long-footed Potoroo captured was an adult female, in excellent condition. Her capture was a real surprise; while the area has a robust population of Long-nosed Potoroos, that is increasing as a result of 10 years of effective fox control, the area is not really considered to be Long-footed Potoroo habitat, given it’s proximity to the coast, and it’s sandy soils. In order to determine if the capture of this Long-footed Potoroo was a one-off, or if there were more Long-foots out there, I placed three cameras in the general area where the female was captured. Quite surprisingly, two of the cameras recorded images of Long-footed Potoroos, with one camera photographing a pair of Long-footed Potoroos! The Long-foots can be distinguished from Long-nosed Potoroos by their generally more robust stature and by their thick tails. This is an exciting development, but as is often the case, it results in more questions than answers! Have the Long-foots always been there, and we just haven’t encountered them before? Have they always been there is small numbers and are just starting to increase to a point where can now trap and photograph them more readily? Are they simply re-occupying habitat they once occurred in, now that the fox population has been significantly controlled? Hopefully we can start to answer these questions over the next 12 months or so. Regardless of the answers, we now have an area (Cape Conran) that is inhabited by both Long-nosed and Long-footed Potoroos, as well as having both Southern Brown and Long-nosed Bandicoots. Throw in Brushtail Possums and Ringtail Possums, two species of antechinus, Bush Rats, Swamp Rats, Water Rats, Swamp Wallabies and Echidnas, and what you have is a pretty diverse site for mammals.

Recent Progress (since last update):
• While the cameras again failed to detect any Spotted-tailed Quolls, they have again been successful in providing us with more information concerning the nationally-endangered Long-footed Potoroos at Cape Conran. In the last update I reported that the cameras had photographed a pair of this species at Cape Conran, which followed on from the first-ever capture of an individual this close to the coast. In November I placed three cameras back at the site where the female had originally been captured, and obtained series of photographs of a female Long-footed Potoroo with a young potoroo hopping around her feet before being photographed back in the pouch. These remarkable, but lucky, photographs have confirmed that this rare and endangered species is breeding in the Cape Conran area. The photos will be attached as separate jpegs to my email.
• Over the summer months the cameras will be deployed in a number of survey areas, and we will ramp up the quoll survey work during autumn-winter.


Component 2: Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot Monitoring Program

Background:


 Purchase of 100 traps to undertake intensive monitoring of endangered Long-nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot populations to fox control across seven study sites ($11,500)
 Employment of 2 casual staff to assist with potoroo and bandicoot surveys over seven sites ($30/hour/person x 2 people x 7 hour days x 35 days = $14,700). Note: each of the seven sites is surveyed for 5 days, resulting in a total of 35 days of field work.

 Purchase 100 traps by August 2008.
 Undertake survey of seven sites during November/December 2008.
 Report prepared on trapping results by March 2009.
 Repeat trapping program in 2009 and in subsequent years (funding not being requested for this at this stage).

Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1 – 5:

• A number of potential sites have been identified for survey, including one site where Southern Brown Bandicoots appear to be making a strong recovery, based on hairtube results. The site, on Old Coast Road, has been surveyed by the Southern Ark team in conjunction with the local TAFE College as an education/training exercise over the last three years. This year the hairtubing effort was able to detect Southern Brown Bandicoots on 30 transects out of a possible 100, with 16% of hairtubes overall securing bandicoot hair (64 hairtubes from 400 hairtubes in total). This is a remarkably high level of detection, and we will use the cage traps purchased to monitor this site (as well as six other sites) over the next few years.
• Cage traps will be purchased from Mascots Wireworks over the next three weeks.
• The purchase of the cage-traps has been put on hold while a trial has commenced comparing the efficacy of cage-traps with remote cameras and hairtubes. This is being undertaken in areas known to support healthy populations of potoroos as well as in areas where potoroos are less abundant. More specifically, we are interested to determine if the cameras are detecting bandicoots at a higher frequency than cage-traps or hairtubes; there is some anecdotal evidence that they appear to be more reluctant to be detected by either cage-traps or hairtubes. Purchase of cage-traps will be put on hold until the results of this short trial are analysed and reported on in the next Three-Monthly Report (ie No. 3).
• Two trials have in fact taken place since the last report, one which tested the efficacy of cameras with both hairtubes and traps as methods of detection, and one that investigated the behaviour of animals approaching traps. The data from the first trial does not appear to be robust enough to categorically state that one technique is more effective than any other, and plans are in place to repeat this early in 2009 (PhD student Alex Diment is undertaking this aspect of the study, supported by the Southern Ark Field Team). Interestingly, during the second trial, we photographed a number of instances were Long-nosed Potoroos did enter cage-traps, but failed to stand on the treadle that triggers the release mechanism for the door to shut, and they therefore did not get caught! The cameras that FAME sponsored for the quoll project were used during this work, and I intend to write this result up as a short note, and will acknowledge the contribution that FAME has made towards making this research possible. Despite the fact that potoroos on some occasions don’t get caught (I should add that on many more occasions they do get trapped!), and on the back of the results of the of some of the early data being generated by the hairtubing program this year, I intend (if this is approved by FAME) to proceed with the initial plan and purchase 100 cage traps, undertake a targeted survey of seven “hot spot” sites (as defined by positive hairtube results from the hairtubing program for potoroos and bandicoots) in April 2009 and in October 2009 (ie two surveys six months apart).
• 100 cage traps have been purchased and are now in East Gippsland. As a result of the large number of sites where both Long-nosed Potoroos and Southern Brown Bandicoots were recorded, we now have a number of sites where we can more closely examine the response of these species once fox control is initiated. As a result of the commitment from the Southern Ark team to fires, we will not be in a position to initiate the trapping of the seven hot-spot sites until May 2009.

• As discussed above, we have now identified a number of areas in Far East Gippsland where we have consistently hairtubed Long-nosed Potoroos and Southern Brown Bandicoots, and we will now implement a trapping program to monitor the status of these populations over time as the fox control program is implemented. If our experience at Cape Conran is anything to go by, these populations will respond positively to the reduced predation pressure.
• There are eight “hot-spot” sites that we will trap over four nights in August and again in October:
o 2 x Tamboon
o 4 x Mueller
o 2 x Drummer
• At each of these sites a transect of 50 traps will be established at 200m intervals along the road adjacent to where the mammals were hairtubed consistently, to give a 10km trapping transect. All potoroos, bandiccots and possums caught will be microchipped, weighed, sexed, and released at the point of capture. All potoroos and Southern Brown bandicoots will also have a tissue sample taken for further genetic analysis.
• The first sites in Mueller have been trapped, with a rather disappointing single potoroo captured and microchipped. Disappointing in as much as the area trapped had produced numerous “hits” on hairtubes during last year’s hairtubing program, and we expected more captures. I shall report back on the results for the remaining sites during the next report.


Recent Progress (since last update):
• More sites have been trapped, in particular a site on Old Coast Road, where we have consistently hairtubed Southern Brown Bandicoots. Two bandicoots were captured, which was slightly disappointing as we expected more captures. Over the next few months more trapping in Mueller, Tamboon and Drummer will take place, as long as fires don’t interfere with the program.

Component 3: Construction of breeding enclosures for Diamond Pythons

Background:

 Purchase enclosures to house captive pythons by October 2008
 Identify locations that enclosures would be established by November 2008
 Establish enclosures by February 2009 (by which time pythons will have been captured, and held prior to breeding program).


Progress Reported in Three-monthly Reports No. 1- 5:

• Three purpose-built enclosures have been purchased from Australian Fauna Supplies.
• Discussions have been initiated with Parks Victoria regarding the establishment of these enclosures on “Marshmead” a property owned by the Methodist Ladies College on the eastern side of Mallacoota Inlet. This site would be ideal as it is well within the known range of the species in Victoria, it would double as a useful education project, and as a working farm and educational facility for young teenage girls it maintains a constant security effort.
• The enclosures will be delivered to East Gippsland in mid June.
• The three enclosures have been delivered to East Gippsland, and are currently held in under-cover storage in the Southern Ark shed. They look well-made and robust, ideal for their intended purpose.
• Unfortunately, our colleagues in Parks Victoria had not progressed the discussions concerning the establishment of the breeding enclosures with the managers of “Marshmead”, and we will contact the managers directly to pursue this possibility.
• The possibility of securing wild pythons of local provenance to commence the breeding program has been discussed with both Parks Victoria staff, as well as with Eden-based staff of State Forests of New South Wales, and this approach has been received favourably, and now a project brief must be more fully circulated and considered.
• Very little to report on this component, other than recent changes in staffing in key positions in both Parks Victoria in Gippsland and Forests NSW in Eden have led to some fruitful informal discussions concerning the possibility of securing wild Diamond Pythons to commence the breeding program.
• An important goal over the next two months will be identifying where the captive breeding enclosures will be located, with Marshmead (Methodists Ladies College) remaining a strong candidate. A number of other local property owners have been canvassed, but none can guarantee the safety of the pythons, especially after-hours and on the week-ends.
• An important recent development has been the identification of a site upon which to establish the captive breeding enclosures. This site belongs to a private landholder, recently retired to Far East Gippsland, who is rehabilitating an area that was previously worked as a beef property. The landowner has recreated an area of wetland, undertaken a significant amount of work in weed removal and is looking to encourage wildlife back onto the property as much as possible. For reasons of security (of the pythons) and confidentiality, at this stage I prefer not to discuss where the location is, or the owner of the property, suffice to say it is well within the current distribution of the Diamond Python in Victoria.
• Further discussions have taken place in regard to the establishment of the breeding enclosures on the private property in East Gippsland. Sites for the breeding enclosures have been identified, and work on constructing these sites will commence once the owner, who is currently overseas, returns.
• Work on a project brief that outlines the taking of pythons from the wild locally will commence shortly, and the Animal Ethics application form will be completed in the next few months.
• The majority of the range of Diamond Pythons in Victoria occurs in Croajingolong National Park, and the Parks Victoria staff are aware of the aims of the project and support it in principle.
• The first breeding enclosure has been transported to the private property involved and constructed (see Figure 2). This property is already inhabited by a resident Diamond Python (nick-named, not surprisingly, “Monty”), and we hope to put together a program whereby lots of juvenile pythons can be returned to the wild.
• The owner of the property (where we hope to undertake the python breeding) and I recently visited Mr Russell Grant, a Melbourne-based expert in breeding pythons in general and Diamond Pythons in particular. We discussed the general proposal and discussed the equipment we will need. Russell was a great help, and he obviously has great enthusiasm for pythons and python conservation. He willingly offered to give us any help he can, but vigorously agreed with us that we should NOT physically involve anyone in the project that currently breeds or maintains reptiles for fear of releasing pythons that may carry disease or parasites that could be detrimental to reptiles in the wild.
• Work on the project brief that outlines the taking of pythons from the wild locally was put on hold until we had met and discussed the proposal with Russell Grant, but this can now commence.
• I am still seeking some results of a Diamond Python radio-tracking project at Booderee National Park at Jervis Bay, which may provide some important data.

Recent Progress (since last update):
• Little has happened since the last update, other than noting there is an increasing interest within DSE and Parks Victoria in the concept of captive breeding and releasing Diamond Pythons into areas where fox control has been initiated. I will continue to work on a project brief, which I will submit to a meeting we are having on the 22nd of January to discuss translocations of fauna in Gippsland.

Three Monthly Report No 8 Due: March 2010

Please direct all queries to Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray
Southern Ark Operations Manager
Department of Sustainability & Environment
PO Box 260 Orbost VIC 3888
Phone: 03 51 611 302
Mobile: 0419396948
andrew.murray@dse.vic.gov.au

Re: Long Nosed Potoroo/Spotted Tail Quoll Updates

Posted: Fri May 07, 2010 10:18 am
by CapnKernel
I am, through Exetel, a voluntary donor to the Southern Ark project.

Is Exetel still sponsoring this project?

Re: Long Nosed Potoroo/Spotted Tail Quoll Updates

Posted: Fri May 07, 2010 10:37 am
by ForumAdmin
CapnKernel wrote:I am, through Exetel, a voluntary donor to the Southern Ark project.

Is Exetel still sponsoring this project?
We are still discussing how we ca assist the next phase.

Any donations you, me everyone else make are still going to the project.

Re: Long Nosed Potoroo/Spotted Tail Quoll Updates

Posted: Thu May 27, 2010 4:16 pm
by Shady
FAME/EXETEL Southern Ark Sponsorship - Three Monthly Report No 7.

January 2010 – March 2010

Click on the link to download: http://www.exetel.com.au/files/fame_exe ... t_no_7.pdf