The value of natural tree hollows for Australian fauna

Nothing beats the hollows of old alive or dead trees for offering natural habitat, safety, breeding and roosting space for any number of animals.

What makes a tree hollow?King Parrot Male Guanaba

Ageing, natural fungal decay, insect attack and bushfire create hollows in a handful of Australian tree species that become home to a range of Australian fauna.

Tree hollows take some 100 to 150 years to form in an Australian tree. Long-lived Australian eucalypts are some of the most likely species to form tree hollows.

Example species that form hollows include:
– River red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)
– Manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis)
– Mountain grey gum (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa)
– Yellow box (Eucalyptus melliodora)
– Brush box (Lophostemon confertus)*
– Antarctic beech (Nothofagus moorei)
– Flooded (or Rose) gum (Eucalyptus grandis)*
– White mahogany (Eucalyptus acmenoides)*
– Grey gum (Eucalyptus biturbinata)*.

National Parks and Wildlife Service NSW: Natural tree hollows: essential for wildlife (PDF)

*Found in the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct

How do animals use tree hollows?Rosella Crimson Guanaba

In Australia, some 17 per cent of bird species, 42 per cent of mammals and 28 per cent of reptiles use tree hollows.

The significant range of fauna using hollows includes bats, possums, gliders, owls, parrots, antechinus, ducks, rosellas, kingfishers, snakes, frogs and a range of lizards. In South East Queensland, up to 130 species need tree hollows to survive.

Land for Wildlife Queensland: The Value of Habitat Trees (PDF)

Hollows come in various sizes, from 2cm to 30cm. This size difference provides habitat for a range of animal species. The smaller entrances are used by animals, such as bats no larger than 10 grams, while the bigger entrances are used by larger animals, such as the Powerful Owl, the Glossy Black Cockatoo and possums.

Department of Environment and Climate Change: Hollow bearing trees (PDF)

There is a variety of reasons animals use tree hollows, including for shelter, nesting, roosting and foraging. Tree hollows are especially crucial for species that need them for nesting and roosting, including a range of threatened species.

The number of tree hollows required by animalsRainbow Lorikeets Guanaba

As a guide, there needs to be between 3 and 10 hollow-bearing trees producing up to 30 tree hollows per hectare to provide adequate habitat and guarantee the health and genetic diversity of a range of species.

National Parks and Wildlife Service NSW: Natural tree hollows: essential for wildlife (PDF)

The right landscape is vital to producing the necessary number of tree hollows and hollow varieties to house animals from different species as well as animals from the same species.

National Parks and Wildlife Service NSW: Natural tree hollows: essential for wildlife (PDF)

Threats to tree-hollow wildlifeCockatoo White Guanaba

A number of species use dead trees with livable hollows. Dead trees last only for a decade, sometimes a little longer, and provide short-term habitat for animals dependent on them. If human activity reduces forest area, fewer supporting trees are available to create future hollows. Reduction in hollow habitat puts dependent wildlife under stress, which can affect their numbers and lead to local species collapse / extinction.

Eco Magazine: Trees and non-flying mammals: a hollow understanding

Nesting boxes are often used as tree-hollow replacements. But are they adequate compensation for the loss of hollow-bearing trees, where the loss of the tree could be and should be avoided?

“Increasingly, artificial hollows (nest or roost boxes) are being installed to compensate for the loss of hollow-bearing trees. However, there is much debate about how effective nest boxes are as replacements for natural hollows … It is clear that nest boxes should not be used to justify the removal of hollow-bearing trees or unsustainable forestry practices.”

Eco Magazine: Trees and non-flying mammals: a hollow understandingEgernia mcpheii Guanaba

We’ve just scratched the surface of what tree hollows provide and how they’re used by Australian fauna.

We have a good understanding of the effects threats to hollow habitat can have on species numbers. This understanding makes the protection of good, healthy natural hollows vital for the safety and diversity of an amazing range of our native animals.

More information:

Wires Northern Rivers: Tree hollows and nestboxes

Western Australian Museum: Veteran and stag trees

Wet sclerophyll forests of Guanaba Forest – fauna, flora, fire

Magical towering eucalypt giants – symbols of Australia’s amazing wet sclerophyll forests. But they’re not all you’ll find in these beautiful forests, which contain rich understorey, soft-leaved shrubs, ferns and herbs and an incredible collection of fauna.

Biology of a wet sclerophyll forest

Wet sclerophyll forest in Guanaba ForestWet sclerophyll forests, often caught between rainforests and more open woodlands, are important habitat for an array of fauna, from marsupials to birds and bats and from insects to snakes, lizards and frogs.

Wet sclerophyll forests, when neighboured by rainforests, will include a mix of rainforest and sclerophyll forest plants where there exists overlap between the two forest types.

Sclerophylls generally occur in places with high rainfall (more than 900mm per year) and with a summer temperature exceeding 30 degrees Celsius and a winter mean temperature of less than 5 degrees Celsius.

Where are wet sclerophyll forests found?Bleeding Heart Tree (Omalanthus populifolius)

In Australia, wet sclerophyll forests are found in all states and territories except South Australian and the Northern Territory.

In Queensland, wet sclerophyll forests are mostly found in the south east part of the State (such as Tamborine Mountain) and, to a much smaller extent, the wet tropics.

What do wet sclerophyll forests look like?

Eucalypts and understorey in wet sclerophyll forests Gunaba ForestWet sclerophyll forests can be distinguished by their mix of very tall eucalypts (such as Flooded Gums) and a rich understorey of soft-leaved plants, many of which are rainforest plants.

The canopy, while open, has leaves that often interlock, leaving little light for the understorey. As well as a reduction in light, the leafy canopy creates a high level of humidity. This blend of low light and humidity provides good growing conditions for a range of mid-story plants that are effective light collectors. This second story of tightly growing plants enables the emergence of the next range of plants prevalent in wet sclerophyll forests, such as tree ferns and vines.

Fires in wet sclerophyll forests

Wet sclerophyll forests can combust easily, with a combustion rate dictated by the wet / dry weather. The peak fire season for sclerophylls in South East Queensland is between late spring and early summer.

Fires in wet sclerophyll forests have a direct and devastating impact on the wildlife, especially if the forest has been fragmented by human encroachment.

(Ref: “Wet sclerophyll forest: Regrowth Benefits – Management Guideline”, Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts; Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 2010; p27.)

Eastern Bristlebirds, in particular, have been the unlucky victims of fires in wet sclerophyll habitat, their populations having dramatically decreased in South East Queensland and north east NSW due to uncontrolled fire.

(Ref: “Wet sclerophyll forest: Regrowth Benefits – Management Guideline”, Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts; Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 2010; p27.)

A fire in Guanaba Forest

While Guanaba Forest comprises rainforest and open grassy forest, most of the property comprises at least two to three different types of fire prone wet sclerophyll forest. This type of forest falls within the highest fire rating of 10 according to the State’s bushfire planning policy, a rating that increases when the property’s geography and aspect are taken into account.

Residents neighbouring Guanaba Forest give an account of a serious fire that occurred in 2003, where fire impacted on a major portion of the property’s 500 acres and threatened nearby properties and homes. After the fire charged out of control, it took urban and rural firefighters 10 days of dedicated effort to bring it under control and guarantee the safety of surrounding properties.

Residents living around Guanaba Forest are deeply concerned about the increased fire risk introduced by the proposed development, where open pit fires are proposed within forest areas.

Animals of wet sclerophyll forests

Red-necked Wallaby in Guanaba ForestWet sclerophyll forests house an amazing variety of flora and fauna. Depending on the time of year, some animal species from both woodland forests and rainforests will move into and take advantage of sclerophyll habitat.

The older trees in sclerophylls develop hollows over time, creating habitat for a range of tree-dwelling animals, such as possums, owls, bats, parrots, kookaburras, pardalotes and more. (Young, regenerating forests cannot offer this type of vital habitat for animals requiring tree hollows to breed.)

Mammals found in sclerophylls include:Koala climbing tree in Guanaba Forest

– Koalas
– Fruit Bats
– Possums
– Grey-headed Flying Foxes
– Forest Bats
– Swamp Wallabies
– Red-necked Wallabies
– Antechinuses
– Tiger Quolls (Spotted-tailed Quoll)
– Platypuses (Platypi)

Birds found in sclerophylls include:Barred Cuckoo Shrike in Guanaba Forest

– Albert’s Lyrebirds
– Torresian Crows
– Pied Currawongs
– Pied Butcherbirds
– Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes
– Barred Cuckoo-shrikes
– Wonga Pigeons
– Eastern Spinebills
– Pheasant Coucals
– Powerful Owls
– Grey-winged Goshawks
– Crimson Rosellas
– Red-backed Fairy-wrens.

Frogs and reptiles found in sclerophylls include:Frog Pearsons Tree Frog in Guanaba Forest

– Pearson’s Treefrogs
– Tusked Frogs
– Peron’s Treefrogs
– Green Treefrogs
– Red-bellied Black Snakes
– Diamond Pythons
– Land Mullets
– Lace Monitors.

Invertebrates found in sclerophylls include:Garden Orb Spider in Guanaba Forest

– Red-triangle Slugs
– Leeches
– Garden Orb Weaving Spiders
– Golden Orb Weaving Spiders
– Christmas Beetles
– Cicadas
– Giant Earthworms (Digaster longmani).

Species list ref: Wet sclerophyll forests: Steve Parish NatureConnect.

Bangalow Palms with eucalypts in Guanaba Forest

Wet sclerophyll forests offer biodiverse ecosytems – places where a variety of plants and animals thrive. There are few of these ecosystems left in Australia, and those remaining are under pressure from increased human activity. It’s time to protect the remaining wet sclerophyll forests to guarantee their legacy for generations to come.

More information:

Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts: Wet sclerophyll forest: Regrowth Benefits – Management Guideline (PDF)

Wet Tropics: Wet sclerophyll forests

Office of Environment and Heritage NSW: Wet sclerophyll forests (grassy sub-formation

Steve Parish: Nature Connect: Wet sclerophyll forests

Victorian Ecosystems: Wet sclerophyll forests

The Internet IBC Bird Collection: Sounds of the Bristlebird

Dragonflies in Guanaba Forest in the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment

The Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct is rich with abundant insect life. One of the heroes of the Escarpment is the dragonfly, an amazing flyer, successful hunter and a most intelligent insect.

Blue Skimmer Female

Female Blue Skimmer

Dragonflies are ancient animals, having been around long before the evolution of the dinosaurs. In fact, some 250 million years ago, a species of dragonfly measured a wingspan 70cm across.

There are 6,000 species of dragonflies and damselflies in the world, with Australia housing some 320 known species.

Dragonflies – very agile flyers
Dragonflies are agile flyers, with some flying across oceans to get to their destination. They can fly up, down, forwards, backwards, left and right. They have four different flying styles; counter-stroking, phased-stroking, synchronised-stroking and gliding, and use these different styles for different reasons, such as needing to change direction very quickly (for this, they use synchronised-stroking).

Female Fiery Skimmer

Female Fiery Skimmer

Where do they live?
They start their lives as nymphs, which is the larval stage of the insect. They may spend several years as a nymph; while the adult may live for a few days or weeks only.

Dragonflies are most often seen around water, but not always, and are found on every continent except Antarctica.

Some dragonflies live in and near running water and some in still water. But, if partial to still water, they don’t cross over into running water and visa versa.

Threats to dragonfly species
Because many species of dragonfly rely on precise water temperatures, good oxygen levels and unpolluted water to survive, they can act as good bio-indicators to water quality. Some dragonflies in NSW are endangered, because their habitats have been negatively impacted on by human activity.

Australian Emerald

Australian Emerald

Loss of habitat – chiefly wetlands – threatens dragonfly populations worldwide.

For example, in Japan, the loss of 60 per cent of the country’s wetlands has forced dragonflies out of their natural habitat and into domestic ponds and local creeks.

In Africa, their numbers have dropped dramatically, making them a focus of conservation attempts on the continent.

A beneficial predator against disease

A study reported by United Press International argues small insects, such as the dragonfly, are “essential for a healthy ecosystem”. And they can contribute to protecting humans from infectious diseases, such as lime disease and malaria.

Female Blue Skimmer

Female Blue Skimmer

The report suggests that the 20th Century reduction in biodiversity might be linked to a global increase in infectious diseases in humans.

The study undertook a range of research methods, such as field surveys, lab experiments and mathematical modelling to find out if the presence of dragonflies (and other predator insects) reduces infections in frogs caused by trematodes (parasitic flatworms).

It found that where more flatworm predators existed, fewer frog infections caused by the flatworm were found.

United Press International: Small predator diversity key to a healthy ecosystem

To be identified dragonfly

To be identified

Amazing sight

According to a report cited in the New Scientist, dragonflies have between 11 and 30 different visual opsins (light-sensitive proteins in the eyes of animals).

This means dragonflies can see beyond our red, blue, green colour combination and may have vision that sets a precedent for the entire animal kingdom.

Add this to other studies, which have found dragonflies see ultraviolet as well as red, blue, green and they can recognise polarised light reflections off water and you have yourself an insect with amazing visual capacity.

New Scientist article: Dragonfly eyes see the world in ultra-multicolor

The celebrated dragonfly

Many cultures revere the dragonfly. Native American tribe, the Navajos, use them as a symbol for water purity. And in Japan they’re seen as symbols of courage, strength and happiness.

While not celebrated in Europe, they play a big part in folklore, where the dragonfly is seen as sinister. UK-ites have referred to them as the “Devil’s darning needle” and in Portugal they’ve been referred to as the “eye-snatcher”.

Dragonflies in poetry

Male Fiery Skimmer

Male Fiery Skimmer

Dragonflies have found themselves in poetry.

One of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s earlier poems celebrated the dragonfly …

Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.

There are many great online and print resources on dragonflies. Find out more about the dragonfly, an amazing animal.

They rely heavily on the protection of their habitat, chiefly, water quality for their survival. Any change to their environment can impact on the very water they need to survive.

More information:

Buglife: Saving the small things that run the planet

PNAS article on dragonfly sight: Extraordinary diversity of visual opsin genes in dragonflies

PNAS article on predator diversity: Predator diversity, intraguild predation, and indirect effects drive parasite transmission

Find a dragonfly: Australian Dragonfly Identification Key

Brisbane Dragonflies Field Guide

Australian Museum: Dragonflies and damselflies: Order Odonata

The Whoop Whoop Bird of the Escarpment: The Pheasant Coucal

Pheasant CoucalShe might look like a big chicken (maybe a Rhode Island Red), but the Pheasant Coucal is a fascinating bird that does something quite different to other cuckoos.

The Pheasant Coucal (Centropus phasianinus) is unlike other cuckoos in two ways:

1. They make their nest on the ground.
2. They make their own nest, care for their own eggs and raise their own young.

Other cuckoos don’t make their own nests. They, instead, lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. By the time the young cuckoos are born, the non-cuckoo mum thinks the young baby cuckoo is hers and rears them as her own.

Plumage

Pheasant Coucal plumage is a beautiful red-brown colour, with dramatic black and red wings with white stripes; they look distinctive even when unextended. Their very long black and white tail, making up the rest of their 50cm to 70 cm frame, make them look like a pheasant.

During breeding season, Coucals’ head and neck feathers colour turn a dramatic dark brown / black colour.

Habit & habitat

The Pheasant Coucal tends to run along the ground. They can fly, but aren’t the most elegant in the air, preferring to fly-jump from tree to tree before reaching their destination.

Sclerophyll Forest with CycadsCoucals to use low-growing shrubs and dead trees to move from one place to the next. They like thicker lower shrubs for ground protection from exposure to threats.

Coucals love forests with understory vegetation, such as bracken, grasses and rushes. They go well in wet sclerophyll forests, which offer a variety of low-growing plants to help them move from one place to another and to rear their young.

Where are they found?

Pheasant Coucals can be found in northern and eastern Australia. They are also found in Western Australia’s Pilbara region and south-eastern NSW. They’re sedentary animals, meaning they stay in the place they find adequate food and shelter. Our Coucals have been nesting in the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment for years, always returning to the same nesting site.

Breeding & feeding

Pheasant Coucals pair for life. The male Coucal incubates the eggs – from one to five in a single nest. Both the male and female Coucals take turns feeding their young, but the male does most of the work.

Pheasant Coucals live on lizards, frogs and insects (and sometimes small mammals).

The sound of the Pheasant CoucalPheasant Coucal

Pheasant Coucals are also called the Whoop Whoop Bird, or, to residents in the Escarpment “Whoopies”. They are called this for a very good reason; they have a very distinctive call, where they whoop several times to communicate with their partner Coucals.

The Pheasant Coucal is a beautiful ground-dwelling bird; just one of the many amazing animals of the Escarpment.

More information:

Birds in Backyards: Pheasant Coucal
BirdLife Australia: Pheasant Coucal
Graeme Chapman: Read about the Pheasant Coucal
Graeme Chapman: Hear the Pheasant Coucal

Tamborine Mountain’s green heart: Our Escarpment

The Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct; it’s part of who we are. It’s the Green Heart connecting disparate settlements. It makes us one community.

The Escarpment in the makingKoala With Tamborine Mountain Gorge Backdrop

In the 1980s, individuals, community groups and organisations came together to define and protect the Escarpment. Some 30 years (and more) has made the Escarpment an essential part of Tamborine Mountain culture. To develop the Escarpment took the work of many, from the Natural Heritage Trust to Tamborine Mountain Landcare and from the Beaudesert and Gold Coast Councils to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (now National Parks) and the Federal Government.

And it took the work of Tamborine Mountain Landcare and troops of enthusiastic volunteers to regenerate vegetation in parts of the Escarpment, repair and further extend other parts.

What’s so special about the Escarpment?Tamborine Mountain Escarpment

In the 1900s, some 90 per cent of the Mountain’s natural vegetation was clear-felled under law. Despite this, much of the area where the Escarpment exists remained forested.

The Escarpment provides a beautiful green backdrop to the Scenic Rim, the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Ever been to St Bernards Hotel and looked at the view? That’s part of the Escarpment.

It’s unique in terms of natural offerings – geologically sensitive sites, water catchments, such as the ecologically sensitive Guanaba Creek, and remnant forests and rainforests.

And it’s home to species recognised at a state, national and global level, from the Albert’s Lyrebird to the Koala and from the Pearson’s Green Treefrog to the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly (to name a few).

“… the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment supports more than 80% of all native terrestrial fauna species … and 61% of flora known to occur in the Gold Coast region.” Ref. Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Flora and Fauna Report; Chenoweth.

Our unique Tamborine Mountain … why we love it

So why do people visit Tamborine Mountain? Why do people come to live here? And why do businesses set up here?

Because the Mountain offers unique green spaces, National Parks, low-key tourism, peaceful calm, charming and caring personal service, amazing flora and fauna and much, much more.

“… the Tamborine Mountain escarpment forests will be recognised as the main reason that tourists come to visit, that increasing numbers of people are choosing to reside on the Mountain and that rural industries are able to enjoy the relative security of soil protection, wind protection and the protection afforded by a large resident insectivorous bird population.” Ref. Chenoweth.

After all, Tamborine Mountain celebrates its green spaces. Government declared Queensland’s first National Park on Tamborine Mountain and since this declaration, the Mountain has become home to some 17 sections of National Park.

The escarpment will be recognised as a valuable resource of significance to southeast Queensland in particular, and a valuable adjunct to the World Heritage forests of Lamington and Border Ranges National Parks.” Ref. Chenoweth.

Why protect the Escarpment?Tamborine Mountain Forest Floor

1. The need to protect endangered, threatened and vulnerable species.
2. The need to protect sensitive ecological areas.
3. The need to protect water catchments.
4. The need to protect ground water sources.
5. The need to protect the scenic values.
6. The need to protect the current tourism on the Mountain.
7. The need to protect the community who live within the Escarpment.

“The core area for survival of the Mountain’s natural world must remain the protected areas, and the key to their survival is learning and teaching others respect for the natural world, rather than the potential for its exploitation. Meredith McKinney, who lived on the Mountain as a child with her mother, poet and environmentalist Judith Wright.

The Escarpment – our Mountain’s Green Heart – an important and significant place for Tamborine Mountain, for the Scenic Rim, for South East Queensland, for Australia and for the world.

Magical birds of the Escarpment

There are some amazing birds of Guanaba Forest in the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment, some vulnerable, threatened and endangered.

A place of many different forest types, the Escarpment provides an array of habitat for a variety of bird species as well as other significant fauna within the South East Queensland region.

Some of the bird species in the Escarpment face regional population decline, while some face national population decline. Recognition of the need to protect their habitat to secure their numbers is needed. Turning recognition into action is vital.

Here are some of the bird species facing population decline living within the Escarpment.

Grey Goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae)Grey Goshawk

Status:
1. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Grey Goshawk is a medium-sized raptor who comes in two different colour morphs.

They’re found in coastal areas in Australia’s northern and eastern spaces. The grey morph is more commonly found along the east coast in thick, sub-tropical forests.

Glossy Black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami)

Status:
1. Queensland species status: Vulnerable.
2. Federal species status: Endangered.
3. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Glossy Black-Cockatoo is the smallest of the 5 black cockatoos. Its colours are brown-black head and body, with red or orange in their tail.

Glossy Black-Cockatoos love Allocasuarina, relying on the fruit of this tree for food. They also nest and breed in tree hollows.

Land clearance has affected their habitat, which threatens the numbers of this beautiful bird.

Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

Status:
1. IUCN species status: Near-threatened.
2. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Black-necked Stork (also called the Jabiru) is the only stork found in Australia. They have black and white plumage, a glossy dark green and purple neck and black bill … a very distinctive bird.

The Jabiru is found in wetlands, swamps, water pools and more permanent bodies of water.

Albert’s Lyrebird (Menura alberti)Albert's Lyrebird

Status:
1. Queensland species status: Near-threatened.
2. IUCN species status: Near-threatened.
3. IUCN report: Decreasing.

The Albert’s Lyrebird is the smaller of the two Lyrebirds (the other being the Superb Lyrebird).

They’re found in a very small area of sub-tropical rainforest near the NSW and Queensland state border.

They don’t have the vocal range of the Superb Lyrebird, but their songs are still quite beautiful and recognisable.

Plumed Frogmouth (Podargus ocellatus plumiferus)

Status:
1. Queensland species status: Vulnerable.

The Plumed Frogmouth is found in Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

They live in sub-topical and moist lowland and mountain forests.

They’re considered a difficult bird to study because of their elusive nature. Numbers are threatened by land clearing, timber harvesting and fire.

Black-breasted Button-quail (Turnix melanogaster)Black Breasted Button Quail

Status:
1. Queensland species status: Vulnerable.
2. IUCN species status: Near-threatened.
3. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Black-breasted Button-quail is a rare Button-quail found only in Australia. It is not a true quail.

This little ground dweller is found in areas that see rainfall of between 770 and 1200 mm per year. Fragmentation of habitat has impacted seriously on their numbers.

Protecting the habitat of these amazing Australian birds is vital to their future.

More information:

Australian bird species reference: Birds in Backyards

Australia’s birds: Birdlife Australia

IUCN Threatened Species List: IUCN Red List

Search lists:

Department of Environment: Species Profile and Threats Database

Queensland Government: Species profile search

Protecting Escarpment koalas – let’s save our koalas

Despite esteemed leaders posing with koalas at the G20 for publicity, as a nation we still take for granted one of Australia’s great animal icons (one which is widely recognised overseas).

Koala numbers are quickly declining due to loss of habitat and an increase in encroaching human activities.

Let’s stop taking koalas for granted and realise we need to protect those remaining from harm. We need to halt their decline and work hard to grow their numbers.

About the koalaKoala In Tree

The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is an Australian marsupial. It’s the only surviving animal from the Phascolarctidae family.

Its closest relative is the wombat. Bet you didn’t expect this.

Both the koala and the wombat have pouches that face backwards. This is okay for the ground-dwelling wombat, but koalas need pretty strong pouch muscles to ensure the safety of their young ones, which are called “cubs”.

Breeding for the koala

In Queensland, koalas breed from August to January. Young are generally born in summer, but some can also be born in autumn.

Adult males use an interesting bellowing / grunting noise to attract their mates (and tell other males to get lost).

Safety and protection during this breeding season is vital. Any high-level human activity during this time can greatly affect koala breeding cycles.

Size of the koalaKoala Legout

Koalas come in a range sizes. Adult males can be between 4kg to 14kg and females can be between 4kg to 10kg.

Why the amazing size variation? Northern koalas – those from northern NSW through to northern Queensland are much smaller than their southern counterparts.

Where koalas live

Koalas generally live most of their lives in trees (they’re arboreal animals) and use the ground to move from tree to tree (which is when they’re most vulnerable).

Koalas are mainly found along the eastern seaboard of Australia from Queensland to Victoria and including South Australia.

They live in eucalypt sclerophyll forests and woodland areas. Their range depends on the size of their habitat and the quality and suitability of the food contained within that habitat.

Their habitat can range from 2 hectares to several hundred hectares. Not surprisingly, koala numbers differ depending on the size of the forest supporting them.

What koalas eatKoala With Tamborine Mountain Gorge Backdrop

Koalas generally live in open woodlands comprising eucalypts.

Their diet is based mostly on the leaves from a number of Australian eucalypts. Their limited and very focused diet means koalas don’t get a lot of nutritional or caloric content from their food, a reason for their extremely snoozy habits – they sleep for up to 20 hours per day (so don’t expect a lot of conversation).

Here are the names of some of the trees from which koalas eat leaves:

1. Blue Gum (Forest Red Gum) Eucalyptus tereticornis
2. Tallowwood microcorys
3. Grey Gum propinqua, E. punctata and E. major
4. River Red Gum camuldulensis
5. Swamp mahogany robusta
6. Flooded gum grandis.

Threats to the koala’s existence

Koalas appear on the Australian Government’s EPBC Act* as vulnerable and Queensland’s NCA** as regionally vulnerable.

Koala numbers have dropped by some 43 per cent in Queensland, with South East Queensland koala numbers falling from 25,000 to between 4,000 and 2,000 in 10 years.

This is due to the massive reduction of their already limited habitat along the east coast of Australia .

Around 80 per cent of the eucalypt forests koalas rely on for their food have been affected.

The remaining 20 per cent of forest left is not protected and a large portion of it is in private hands, meaning anything can happen to much of the remaining habitat. This further threatens the existence of the koala.

Reasons for the decline in koala numbers:

1. loss of habitat
2. increased disturbance by humans
3. injury or death from traffic
4. injury or death from dogs and cats
5. effects of garden pesticides getting into waterways
6. increased competition for food and territory because of overcrowding
7. increased stress on animals, making them more susceptible to disease
8. bushfire, which can completely wipe out fragmented forest pockets
9. forest dieback from land degradation, soil nutrient leaching, erosion and exposure to weather.

List from the Koala Foundation: Threats to the koala

Koala numbers in the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct rely heavily on the preservation of the remaining eucalypt forest. Koala numbers are at risk if clearance of key koala habitat occurs.

2014 Koala Count ReportKoala In Tree

In November of 2014, the National Parks Association of NSW held the national Great Koala Count to document koala sightings throughout Australia.

Some 308 citizen scientists participated in the count, recording more than 1,000 koala sightings. This was a 54 per cent increase from the 2013 number of koala sightings recorded.

The Scenic Rim citizen scientists (some of whom were on Tamborine Mountain) took on the challenge of counting koalas in the region. There were 12 citizen scientists in the Scenic Rim – more than any other local government region in Queensland barring the Gold Coast (who had 66 citizen scientists).

The koala count for the Scenic Rim reached 26 (low compared with the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, which reached 218 and 61 koalas respectively) and on par with Moreton Bay and Logan.

Author of the 2014 Koala Count Report: Dr Grainne Cleary, Wildlife Ecologist.

Great resources on the koala

Qld Department of Environment and Heritage Protection: Koala maps

The Koala: All about koalas

Australian Koala Foundation: Save the koala

Australia Zoo: Mammals: Koalas

NSW Environment & Heritage: Koala

Consider …

Australian Koala Foundation: Enlisting in the koala army

*EPBC Act: Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

**Queensland’s NCA: Nature Conservation Act 1992

Red-necked Wallabies of the Escarpment

There was a time when residents of the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct barely saw a Red-necked Wallaby. It wasn’t because we weren’t looking, it was simply because they never came.

Why? Because the wallabies didn’t have the habitat to support them beyond the borders of Guanaba’s 500 acres.

After residents moved to the Escarpment Protection Precinct, they began reforesting old farmland and tree-felled areas.

This provided more protection and corridor opportunity for Red-necked Wallabies and gave them increased confidence to use newly created corridors as part of their backdrop for foraging, socialising, breeding and feeding their young.

While Red-necked Wallabies do not appear on any at-risk species list, they are still an important part of Tamborine Mountain’s wildlife tapestry.

They rely heavily on the vegetation in the Escarpment Protection Precinct; vegetation that must be retained for these wallabies and other species reliant on this vital area of the Mountain.

So what is a Red-necked Wallaby?Red Necked Wallaby Family

The beautiful Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) is a redhead.

They have white cheeks, from their nose to their eyes and a very distinctive red colouring on the backs of their heads, necks and shoulders.

They have very white chests and greyish fur on the rest of their bodies, speckled throughout with hints of red.

Protected by law in all states, they are found in many parts of eastern Australia – from Queensland right down to Victoria. They are also found in South Australia and Tasmania.

Size of Red-necked Wallabies

There is an amazing variety of shapes and sizes of wallabies and kangaroos in Australia.

The Red-necked Wallaby is a mid-sized macropod (from the family Macropodidae (big feet), which includes kangaroos, tree-kangaroos, pademelons, quokkas and more).

Females can weight from between 11kg and 15kg and grow to around 84cm.

Males can weight from between 15kg to 26kg and grow to around 88cm.

Some males can be much larger than the females and can be further distinguished by their muscle mass.

Where to find Red-necked WallabiesRed Necked Wallaby Juvenile

The habitat for Red-necked Wallabies varies, from dry open forests with protective undergrowth, to grasslands and paddocks; however, they only venture into open areas to forage and return to the protection of the forest during the day and throughout the night.

They love the protection of low-growing shrubs, such as the Grevillea – Red Silky Oak (G. banksii forsteri), which is endemic to South East Queensland, including Tamborine Mountain.

Behaviour of the Red-necked Wallaby

Red-necked Wallabies are crepuscular, which means they appear primarily at dawn and dusk (early mornings and late evenings) to feed.

They like to eat herbs and young shoots and leaves of heathland plants.

They use the dense forest during the day for protection and appear at the edges at the beginning and the end of the day to feed, sometimes in groups (although, they are mainly solitary animals).

Red-necked Wallabies are timid animals who quickly scatter when disturbed, which is why they enjoy the protection of dense forest unaffected by human interference.

Mums tend to “hide” their young in dense vegetation before going out to forage. They then return to their young to suckle. This makes them one of the “hider” species of macropods, which means protective vegetation is essential for their health and stability.

Habitat and a safe environment must be maintained for the Red-necked Wallabies of the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct. Animals don’t need to be on an at-risk list to make them precious.

For more pictures of Red-necked Wallabies, see the Save Guanaba Facebook page.

Find out more from these great websites

Australia Zoo: Mammals – Red-necked Wallaby

Queensland Museum: Red-necked Wallaby

Australian Native Plants Society: Grevillea banksii

Wildlife Mountain: Red-Necked Wallaby (a website on a group who rehabilitate animals after they are injured or orphaned).

What the devil is a Spotted-tailed Quoll?

The Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct offers perfect habitat for the Spotted-tailed Quoll. There have been unconfirmed recordings of the species within the area; a species that once occurred across Tamborine Mountain before the loss of a lot of habitat (Ref. Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Flora and Fauna Report; Chenoweth, 2001).

To record consistent sightings and habits of this elusive animal requires months of dedicated on-site study … just ask the Australian Quoll Conservancy.

Known as … the Spotted-tailed quoll, the Tiger Quoll, the Tiger Cat and the Burrumbil.

Scientific name … Dasyurus maculatus maculatus.

Quolls belong to the Dasyurini tribe, which includes the Tasmanian Devil, Antechinus, Kowari and Mulgara.

Key points about the Spotted-tailed Quoll …

–  primarily nocturnal
–  a predatory animal
–  the largest marsupial carnivore on mainland Australia
–  top of the food chain, it plays a role in the population control of other native animals
–  three to four times larger than the other five quoll species at 75 cm from the nose to the tail
–  the only quoll to have spots from the body right onto the tail.

Threats to Spotted-tailed Quoll numbers …

Threats to the quoll’s survival include:

1. Land clearing and the resulting loss of habitat.
2. Cats, dogs and foxes, which eat young quolls (made worse by habitat loss as feral animals penetrate cleared areas).
3. The dreaded cain toad (quolls can eat them and suffer poisoning).

Interesting …

Quolls live for only a very short time – some three to four years. This could be one of the key reasons why the status of this species is so threatened. If the number of new animals moving into established quoll populations is low, then breeding is affected and numbers drop.

It’s vital to protect the habitat of the Spotted-tailed Quoll to enable the animals to socialise and breed.

Current status of the Spotted-tailed Quoll …

1. Endangered: Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
2. Near-threatened: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (IUCN stands for: International Union for Conservation of Nature.)
3. Vulnerable: Queensland Government’s Nature Conservation Act 1992.

We need to give the Spotted-tailed Quoll the best possible chance of surviving within the remaining habitat so crucial to their survival.

We have a responsibility to protect this beautiful and unusual animal from being exposed to any more threats. We’ve done enough damage; it’s time we do some good.

Great resources on the Spotted-tailed Quoll …

Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection: Queensland’s quolls

Australian Government Department of the Environment: Spotted-tail Quoll

Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland: Spotted-tailed Quoll

IUCN Red List: Dasyurus maculatus