THE BILBY NEEDS CITIZEN SCIENTISTS
Bilby Tracks is a citizen science program operating inside the Bilby Fence - a predator- exclusion area at Currawinya National Park in western Queensland.
By engaging citizen scientists we are able to conduct regular animal and habitat surveys and monitoring in this remote area.
This work is required before bilbies can be re-released and become a semi-wild insurance population.
The endangered Queensland bilby
The Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is vulnerable nationally and endangered in Queensland. In Queensland, bilby numbers could fall to as few as 400 to 600 in years when conditions are severe. These bilbies are isolated from those elsewhere Australia. When a species' gene pool loses too much diversity, the remaining genetic variation may be too low for it to adapt to major changes in its environment. So the genes these surviving bilbies carry are critically important to preserving genetic diversity and maintaining the adaptive traits of the Queensland sub-population.
Why Currawinya National Park?
Currawinya National Park falls close to the centre of the bilby’s former range in eastern Australia. Weather conditions there provide a reliable and diverse food supply. The reintroduction of bilbies to this park forms part of a national strategy to recover endangered species to either their former status or at a minimum to secure the status of existing wild populations.
The Bilby Fence
The Bilby Fence at Currawinya National Park was designed to protect bilbies from feral animals and predators to enable them to live and breed in safety. It opened in 2003 and cost $500 000 to build the 25sq km electrified predator-exclusion fence.
Much of the money raised came from selling thousands of panels of the fence. This engaged the community and supporters in helping to save this species. Some of first Bilby Trackers in 2016 had bought panels of the fence!
The key features of the fence are:
- the 400-mm wire netting ‘skirt’ at the base of the fence on each side blocks invaders from burrowing in and bilbies burrowing out under the fence
- 4100 short ‘springy’ wires pull the netting across to create a ‘floppy top’ which stops foxes and cats climbing over it
- 5000 volts of electricity pulse through six surrounding wires, preventing emus and kangaroos from crashing into and damaging the netting.
The Fund has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Queensland Government which has committed $700,000 to replacing the bottom panel of the fence with stainless steel wire to make it impervious to corrosion from future flooding events. The government has committed to have the new panels in place by 2018.
Releasing captive bilbies
Once the area inside the Bilby Fence is free from feral cats, further preparations for the re-release of captive bred bilbies can begin.
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