Eyre Peninsula’s busy bilbies
Greater bilbies, which are vulnerable to extinction, are being monitored in Venus Bay Conservation Park by remote monitoring cameras and some of the animals have had their genetics sampled in a bid to learn more about the genetic fitness of this reintroduced population on Eyre Peninsula.
Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula District Manager Mark Anderson said images from the remote cameras reveal low bilby numbers, however the ones that are present are very active.
“Even in these dry conditions the bilbies are busy digging and foraging,” Mr Anderson said.
“They are remarkably well adapted to this environment, escaping to underground burrows during the heat of the day and emerging at night to feed on insects, seeds, bulbs, fruits and fungi.
“All of their water requirements are obtained from their food. These fascinating native Australian marsupials can locate food sources up to a metre below the ground, skilfully digging and using their well-developed sense of smell and hearing.”
Often described as eco-engineers the deep holes bilbies create eventually fill with plant material that settles and decomposes, creating natural micro-compost pits throughout the landscape.
The pits become high in carbon, nitrogen and nutrients essential to germinating native seeds and encourage plant growth, effectively providing more opportunities for native seedlings to grow and prosper.
“Greater bilbies (Macrotis lagotis) require active conservation efforts,” Mr Anderson said.
“In late 2017 we collected 35 genetic samples from male and female bilbies from two re-introduced populations on Eyre Peninsula.
“These samples are being analysed for genetic diversity with results expected later in the year, as well as genetic management recommendations.
“It’s all part of a threatened species genetic health project funded by Australian Government through the Targeted Area Grant which aims to get a clearer picture of the genetic health of greater bilbies from across Eyre Peninsula and Australia.”
The bilby population at Venus Bay survives largely due to the protection provided by a large predator-proof fence. Invasive species predator management is a constant task for land managers in the area.
The remote camera monitoring as well as trapping of pest species helps to protect bilbies, endangered Brush-tailed bettongs and other native fauna that live in the park.
Once widespread, bilby populations dramatically declined to the point of extinction across Eyre Peninsula.
Habitat alteration and loss, along with competition from introduced animals, such as the European rabbit, has had the biggest impact on the bilbies, along with predation by the red fox and cats.
For more information on Natural Resources EP bilby recovery work underway on Eyre Peninsula visit www.naturalresources.sa.gov.au/eyrepeninsula/projects-and-partners/NatureLinks-TAG