News from the Field

Wildlife show signs of recovery at North Head Sanctuary

20 Jul. 2021
A Wright/AWC

AWC has had some exciting results at North Head Sanctuary, located on Sydney’s doorstep. In recent surveys, AWC’s team of ecologists in the field at North Head Sanctuary have recorded new individuals and pouch young among reintroduced mammal species, and come face-to-face with four elusive Brown Antechinus. 

At North Head Sanctuary, AWC is contracted by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to deliver research and monitoring projects, including the reintroduction of locally extinct species such as the Brown Antechinus, the Eastern Pygmy Possum and the native Bush Rat, and to provide strategic advice on the conservation of the headland’s critically endangered Eastern Suburb’s Banksia Scrub Community. 

 

Ecologist Holly Nelson and Intern Aiden Wright process a new individual Brown Antechinus at North Head Wildlife Sanctuary. W Vile/AWC
Ecologist Holly Nelson and intern Aiden Wright process a new individual Brown Antechinus at North Head Wildlife Sanctuary.

 

The new mammals and pouch young are positive signs that wildlife is continuing to recover at the sanctuary, nine months on from a hazard reduction burn that jumped containment lines (The Harbour Trust and AWC, who is not contracted to deliver fire management at North Head, were not involved in the burn). Since the fire, our team of ecologists have been closely monitoring wildlife populations and working to support ecosystem recovery. 

During the recent biannual mammal survey, 17 new Long-nosed Bandicoots were processed as well as 12 Eastern Pygmy Possums (five new individuals, two previously caught adults and five pouch young). One of the Eastern Pygmy Possums was previously captured in March with young at foot and only two months later she was recaptured with two new young ones in her pouch 

 

Five pouch young Eastern Pygmy Possums were recorded during May’s small mammal survey. This is a positive sign that the population is growing post fire.  H Nelson/AWC
Five pouch young Eastern Pygmy Possums were recorded during May’s small mammal survey. This is a positive sign that the population is growing post fire.

 

During the survey, the team also captured and processed four new Brown Antechinus – the highest number of live captures since the species was reintroduced. Two individuals were also detected in nest boxes during a survey earlier this year. Brown Antechinus had previously proved difficult to capture. The occurrence of these individuals in traps is likely due to an increased number of nest boxes that are now deployed across the headland as well as changes in habitat and food availability after the fire.  

“It was really exciting to pick up four Brown Antechinus. We know that they’re out there, thanks to sporadic camera sightings, but we haven’t caught one in a trap for a long time” explains Viyanna Leo, AWC Wildlife Ecologist. “We believe they may be appearing more frequently as they are seeking refuge within our survey areas due to loss of habitat from the fire.” 

 

One of four Brown Antechinus found at North Head Sanctuary during the team’s biannual survey. A Wright/AWC
One of four Brown Antechinus found at North Head Sanctuary during the team’s biannual survey.

 

New native Bush Rat individuals were also processed during the survey. A total of 92 were encountered, in comparison to only eight invasive black rats. Between 2014 and 2016, after reducing the black rat population, AWC reintroduced Bush Rats to North Head as part of a unique initiative to use a territorial native species as a biological control against invasive black rats.  

Since the reintroduction of Bush Rats, the population of black rats has decreased from an estimated 112 in 2019 to 29 in 2020. These results demonstrate the success of the initiative and the Bush Rat’s ability to outcompete the introduced species. 

 

One of 17 Long-nosed Bandicoots processed during the recent survey leaps back onto North Head Sanctuary. H Nelson/AWC
One of 17 Long-nosed Bandicoots processed during the recent survey leaps back onto North Head Sanctuary.

 

To further promote wildlife recovery, North Head will soon have an extended frog habitat. AWC is providing guidance on the project to Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, North Head Sanctuary Foundation and the North Head Nursey 

The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust team excavated an existing drainage area and the North Head Sanctuary Foundation is currently lining it with sandstone and planting wetland species propagated on the headland. Once complete, this will extend available habitat for existing species and hopefully encourage new species to move in 

Learn more about AWC and Sydney Harbour Federation Trust’s work at North Head Sanctuary, here.

Australia’s wildlife needs our help now more than ever. Please support this groundbreaking project and help save Australia’s threatened wildlife. 

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