Gliding into 2022

17 December 2021

Stars above, spotlight beams, nocturnal shrieks, and the sudden swoop of something overhead in the darkness – boobook, powerful owl or … glider? This year’s results from Wildlife Queensland’s glider conservation teams make all the bushwhacking worthwhile.

Throughout 2021, our dedicated Queensland Glider Network (QGN) and Yellow-Bellied Glider Project (YBGP) staff and volunteers have been the nighttime guardians of Queensland’s at-risk gliding mammals. Wildlife Queensland’s team has spent countless evenings installing and monitoring nest boxes, studding patches of eucalypt forest with infrared wildlife cameras, and setting up, pulling down and analysing sound-recording audiomoths.

When they’re not in the scrub, our QGN and YBGP staff spend hour after hour meticulously analysing the data that enables them to understand and conserve mahogany gliders (Petaurus gracilis), greater gliders (Petauroides volans and Petauroides minor), and vulnerable yellow-bellied gliders (Petaurus australis) among other, less-threated gliding marsupials. That’s not to mention hosting community engagement and spotlighting events, conducting letterbox drops to increase landholder engagement, explaining all things glider for our Talking Wildlife ‘Glorious Gliders’ webinar in June, and giving radio and print media interviews. Phew!

Yellow-Bellied Glider Project

From Ipswich to Logan to the Scenic Rim, the trees have ears for yellow-bellied gliders. Josh Bowell and his Yellow-Bellied Glider Project volunteers have really rung in the silly season with a hectic few months in the scrub.

Yellow Bellied Glider Sightings

‘In late October and early November, volunteers came out with me for a bit of training and were rewarded with excellent views of yellow-bellied gliders and about 7 greater gliders – and even some gliding action,’ Josh enthuses. ‘We’ve also now collected six audiomoths that have been recording for weeks on a property in Ipswich, so we’re listening to pick out the distinctive vocalisations of yellow-bellied gliders.’ Fingers crossed they hear one – or a family of them! (You can listen to their ear-splitting shrieks here). ‘We’re also currently analysing recordings collected from 5 locations in West Logan,’ adds Josh. Results from that foray are expected in the New Year.

‘Excitingly, acoustic monitoring at a new property in Greenbank in November also recorded yellow-bellied gliders,’ adds Josh, ‘so we’re now adding an extra occurrence site.’

The new site adds to a slowly growing list of places where Josh and his team are able to study and protect these vulnerable gliders. But their survival at that site is threatened by nearby development cramping the Greenbank population. ‘We’ve witnessed yellow-bellied gliders in Greenbank gliding over 2 roads, one of them being busy Goodna Road,’ Josh explains. ‘Any widening of these roads or tree-felling for further development seriously risks cutting off these gliders’ glide paths.’

Appealing to your better nature

Such troubles are the reason this species was chosen as the furry face for Wildlife Queensland’s 2021 Annual Christmas Appeal. All funds raised go towards continuing Josh’s efforts to save this vulnerable, loveable species, so please dig deep.

To assist the species, the YBGP team hopes to widen its (entirely figurative) net as we head into 2022. Scenic Rim region surveys are ramping up with the support of the Scenic Rim Council’s Land for Wildlife Branch. Last week, Josh visited 2 large properties that have recently joined the project – both with suitable old feed trees and property owners keen to help him determine whether these gliders still inhabit the location.

In the New Year, with keen volunteers in tow, Josh will also be conducting even more feed tree searches, acoustic monitoring, and night surveys throughout the Scenic Rim, stepping up efforts to find landholders around West Logan and beginning to search in the north-west suburbs of Brisbane, near Brookfield. He’ll also be spending a couple of nights surveying in the Numinbah Valley as part of the Gold Coast Watergum BioBlitz. But all of this effort takes time and costs money. Please, consider helping him continue his vital work by donating to our appeal.

Queensland Glider Network

Glide poles and gene samples are helping the mahogany glider

Mahogany glider A mahogany glider captured on the glide pole camera at Kennedy. Image: Daryl Dickson

In the north, Daryl Dickson and the Mahogany Glider National Recovery Team have spent much time over several years carefully compiling a draft national recovery plan for the endangered mahogany glider and waiting for the plan to pass across the desk of the relevant ministers and into action.

Thankfully, the completed recovery plan has now been approved by the Federal Government, which has asked state Environment Minister Meghan Scanlon to enact the plan jointly with the Commonwealth. The final hurdle is simply awaiting the state Environment Minister’s signature. Getting the plan stamped would be a wonderful Christmas present after years of diligence and determination.

On the ground, JCU PHD candidate Eryn Chang and her team, including members and volunteers from Wildlife Queensland’s Far North Queensland and Townsville branches, have been collecting samples and studying the molecular genetics of populations to better define the population size and health of north Queensland’s mahogany gliders.

Sadly, the glider pole cameras at Kennedy, funded by Wildlife Qld, are coming to the end of their life. They have provided amazing images and data for the local mahogany gliders over years of operation, and they reinforce the need to assist gliders as they move across road, rail and power easements. Similar to the issues facing Queensland’s southern yellow-bellied gliders, north Queensland’s mahogany (P. gracilis) and fluffy gliders (P. australis) need Wildlife Queensland advocates to keep being vocal about not destroying the trees that allow gliders to disperse and move without the cost or use of poles.

Welcoming a new glider guru

Things move fast in glider world – and not just the gliders themselves. In the south, zoologist and ecologist Paul Revie has joined Wildlife Queensland as a contract Project Officer for the Queensland Glider Network, adding to the team of Matt Cecil and Wayne Cavanagh, to generate better outcomes for endangered greater gliders.

‘Greater gliders have now been assessed as comprising two distinct species: Petauroides minor in Queensland’s north and Petauroides volans in the south. While there’s still no recovery plan for greater gliders either,’ says Paul, ‘as genetic studies and surveys in northern and central Queensland and in the southern states continue, they’re bound to shed light on any potential hybridisation and give us a better idea of distribution.’

‘We’ve been following from Matt’s earlier work with Logan City Council to finish a comprehensive landholder guide for all of Logan’s glider species, from tiny feathertails to the teddy-bear-sized greater gliders,’ adds Paul. ‘We hope to share that in the New Year, as well as a vegetation management guide. And, of course, we’ll be continuing to install and monitor nest boxes for occupancy in many places throughout Logan and eastern Queensland and work with other groups, like Friends of Nerang National Park, to gather data and raise awareness.’

Glider next box inhabitantsOn 10 November, the QGN installed 8 greater glider boxes kindly funded by Logan Councillor Jacob Heremaia. Jacob attended a community spotlighting event earlier in the year and wanted to lend his support by funding greater glider box construction and installation.  At their first monthly check, 6 of the 8 boxes were occupied. Of course, not by greater gliders or even squirrel gliders – by brushtail possums, but it’s a start! Of the 6 occupied boxes, 4 contained an adult and a juvenile, and even the other 2 uninhabited boxes showed signs of use.

Nest box monitoring at Park Ridge and elsewhere within Logan will continue into 2022, and the New Year will also see exciting opportunities to expand the nest box program within Cornubia Forest Nature Refuge, again with the support of Logan City Council.

‘It’s been an encouraging year for local council cooperation with the Queensland Glider Network,’ Paul says, ‘but we also couldn’t do what we do without the help of volunteers, men’s sheds, businesses such as hollow log homes, and of course, all those who have bought glider merch from our online store throughout the year, have adopted a glider, or have donated to our page or to our yellow-bellied glider appeal. Australia’s gliding mammals depend on the generosity of strangers a lot more than they’ll ever know.’

Thank you to all involved in glider conservation in 2021

Wildlife Queensland would like to express sincere thanks for helping our team get out there and work with these incredible animals, day after day, month after month, all through 2021 and into 2022.

If you’d like to be get involved in 2022, please join the Yellow-Bellied Glider Project by following its Instagram page and/or becoming a member of Queensland Glider Network and following the Facebook page. You can also sign up for Wildlife Queensland’s free eBulletin to hear about glider-related events, spotlighting nights, nest box programs, webinars and workshops.

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