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Detecting Squirrel Gliders

Squirrel Gliders are enigmatic animals whose survival is under threat. The species now has a patchy and fragmented distribution across Victoria, where its habitat has been reduced to roadsides, creek-lines and patches of native vegetation on private property.

Squirrel Gliders Petaurus norfolcensis are enigmatic animals whose survival is under threat. The species now has a patchy and fragmented distribution across Victoria, where its habitat has been reduced to roadsides, creek-lines and patches of native vegetation on private property.

The Longwood Plains, near Euroa, is the most southerly extension of the Victorian Riverina bioregion. Its original woodland vegetation is substantially degraded and highly fragmented, due to almost 200 years of grazing, ring- barking, timber harvesting and cropping. An on-going threat is the loss of hollow-bearing trees. This landscape’s flora and fauna have done it tough, yet several threatened species, including the hollow-dependent threatened Squirrel Glider, cling to survival. 

At numerous sites across Victoria, recently regenerated native habitat, often lacking in natural tree hollows, is supplemented with nest-boxes for hollow-nesting species. 

For nest-boxes to work, they need to be installed where gliders are known to occur, yet the most recent glider records from the Longwood Plains are over 20 years old. To complicate matters, Squirrel Gliders are difficult to find; they don’t have bright eye-shine (for nocturnal detection), they don’t vocalise (unlike the Sugar Glider), and their body colouration camouflages them in the tree canopy.

Increasingly, thermal imaging (infra-red) technology is supplementing traditional, direct detection of cryptic species, like the smaller gliding possums. Using thermal imaging, we were able to efficiently detect Squirrel Gliders on three Longwood Plains covenants. Then, with support from the Urquhart Charitable Fund, we installed 80 nest boxes on these covenants, at locations where natural hollows are few.

Real-time viewing of the natural world through thermal imaging is a powerful tool; as well as improving detection of hard-to-find species like the Squirrel Glider, it provides experiences and ecological insight that previously could not have been imagined. 

For more information about projects in the Goulburn Broken region contact Shelagh Curmi (03) 8631 5888 or shelaghc@tfn.org.au

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