September 5, 2015 Latest News No Comments

Squirrel gliders live at the end of my street in Brighton, the northernmost suburb of Brisbane City. I consider this remarkable, given that so many small animals have disappeared from Brisbane. In fact, why is it that squirrel gliders have survived? I now know the answer to this question: squirrel gliders are resilient. They have to be, when you consider what we’ve done to them:

  • Reduced their food supplies. Locals remember our bush as being rich in Banksia integrifolia, a favourite winter food source for gliders. Banksias are now all but gone, the result of too many fires
  • Removed their homes, sometimes on the off chance that a human may be hit by a falling branch. By way of example, a nearby park once contained a seat under a large old gum and I suggested to Council that they move the seat, following which they removed all of the branches and most of the hollows from the tree, leaving the seat
  • Simplified the wildlife with which we share our lives, which is just as negative for gliders as it is for us. Though a small animal, squirrel gliders prefer a reasonably large hollow as they sleep as a family unit. These hollows are in demand by larger and pushier animals and the only defense a glider has is the size of the entrance, ideally about 40mm in diameter. Unfortunately, our wildlife is now dominated by corellas, sulphur-crested cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets and brushtail possums, all equipped with the means to open a small entrance and take over.

Given all this, gliders have done well to hang on this long, but can they do it for much longer? Sadly, I know the answer to that, too. There are two catchments in Brisbane recognised as still containing squirrel gliders in quantity, one being my area, Cabbage Tree Creek. (See map for known populations).

Glider_populations

All the populations shown are now isolated from one another other and this fragmentation is starting to take its toll. Between 2002 and 2006, a team from Southern Cross University took tissue samples from squirrel gliders in Deagon Wetlands in Minnippi Parklands along Bulimba Creek and in the vicinity of Mackay in central Queensland. They found that populations which had been isolated for only 30 years already showed evidence of in-breeding. The conclusion is foregone: most populations will disappear over time unless something is done to help them.

Thankfully, help is underway. The Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) will install three rope crossings as part of the Gateway North upgrade, two of which will link Boondall Wetlands to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre complex, with the other linking the Deagon Wetlands complex to, ultimately, the Fitzgibbon remnants. As the Gateway is such a large road, these will be the world’s longest squirrel glider crossings. It will be no mean feat but we cannot afford not to try.

All the populations shown are now isolated from one another

Gliders have done well to hang on this long but can they do it for much longer? - Photo © Megan Johannesen

Gliders have done well to hang on this long but can they do it for much longer? – Photo © Megan Johannesen

other and this fragmentation is starting to take its toll. Between 2002 and 2006, a team from Southern Cross University took tissue samples from squirrel gliders in Deagon Wetlands in Minnippi Parklands along Bulimba Creek and in the vicinity of Mackay in central Queensland. They found that populations which had been isolated for only 30 years already showed evidence of in-breeding. The conclusion is foregone: most populations will disappear over time unless something is done to help them.

Thankfully, help is underway. The Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) will install three rope crossings as part of the Gateway North upgrade, two of which will link Boondall Wetlands to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre complex, with the other linking the Deagon Wetlands complex to, ultimately, the Fitzgibbon remnants. As the Gateway is such a large road, these will be the world’s longest squirrel glider crossings. It will be no mean feat but we cannot afford not to try.

by
Frank Box
frank@ozbox.net.au
(07) 3269 3135 or 0421 488 622.

Written by Wildlifeqld