AWC has secured a $1.5 million federal government grant to build northern Australia’s first feral predator-free safe haven that will play a critical role in safeguarding the future of the endangered Northern Bettong.
The Environment Restoration Fund’s Safe Haven Grant will contribute to the construction of a 13 kilometre fence to create a 950-hectare feral predator-free fenced area at AWC-owned and managed Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary in north-east Queensland. The fence is a significant next step in the project as it builds on almost two decades of destocking and habitat restoration work within the 60,000-hectare sanctuary located in the Coane Range.
The feral predator-free fence is being constructed around an area containing prime Northern Bettong habitat and will allow AWC to safely reintroduce the species to the region for the first time since it became locally extinct. Through close monitoring and ongoing habitat management, AWC aims to establish a secure, viable, genetically diverse population of the Northern Bettong within the sanctuary.
Tim Allard, Australian Wildlife Conservancy Chief Executive Officer, welcomed the awarding of the grant, saying that it advances plans to establish a safe haven and reestablish a population of the small endangered marsupial species in an area where it once thrived.
“This grant is great news as it enables us to move forward with the construction of a feral predator-free fence that will help protect the future of Queensland’s endemic bettongs and increased its global population by up to 50 percent,” Tim said.
Although Northern Bettongs once occurred at Mount Zero-Taravale, they became locally extinct around 2003 due to predation by feral cats and habitat alteration caused by changed fire regimes and feral herbivores. Only two populations remain on the Lamb Range and the Mount Carbine Tableland with a combined total estimated at fewer than 1,100 individuals. As such, establishing a third secure population in the bettong’s former home range is a critical step in safeguarding the species.
In addition to building the fence, AWC will closely monitor the species once it is reintroduced to the site and conduct ongoing management within the fenced area to ensure the habitat remains optimal for population growth.
AWC have implemented a land management program at Mount Zero-Taravale over several years specific to managing key threats and restoring the northern Bettong habitat. Land management has included weed control, destocking of cattle and fencing, and re-establishing a fire regime of patchy and varied fire intensity. Through these efforts, the grassy understorey of the tall eucalypt forest, the key habitat for the Northern Bettong, is showing some positive signs of recovery. AWC is working closely with Traditional Owners, the Northern Bettong Recovery Team and other key project partners to deliver this critical project.
For more information on the work conducted at Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary, click here.
The Northern Bettong Recovery Project is funded by the Australian Government’s Environment Restoration – Safe Havens program.
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