A GECO citizen science survey conducted in the Kuark forest has resulted in a new protection zone for Yellow Bellied Gliders. The state environment department has written to GECO confirming the results of their investigation met the requirements for a new protection zone.
Yellow Bellied Gliders are protected in East Gippsland when more than five individuals are recorded within a distance of 1km. If this threshold is met a 100 hectare protection zone is required to be established.
GECOs survey took place in February 2016 in the Kuark forest at a highly contentious area of forest at Pikes Hill. The forest was subject to a Supreme Court legal case brought by Environment East Gippsland (EEG). The case alleged that VicForests had failed to identify and protect threatened species and rainforest in logging coupes before logging commenced in January 2016.
After GECO took direct action, EEG secured a court injunction to halt the logging on the grounds that threatened species habitat and rainforest was being logged without VicForests having completed adequate pre logging surveys and the required protections had not been implemented.
The Yellow Bellied Gliders were detected by GECO in the 'Webbed Feet' coupe, after EEG's legal injunction had already halted the logging. The Supreme Court case eventually settled out of court with VicForests agreeing not to log the remaining area of the 'Webbed Feet' coupe.
The new protection zone for Yellow Bellied Gliders should protect good quality habitat adjacent to the 'Webbed Feet' coupe and prevent further logging from being scheduled in the area.
Spotlighting is a commonly used survey technique for Yellow Bellied Gliders. This is often combined with the 'call playback' method which involves using a mega phone to broadcast the sound of a Powerful Owl (or other predator of the glider) to illicit a response from the Yellow Bellied Gliders that can be used as an aural detection record of the species.
Hear the sound of the Yellow Bellied Glider here.
The GECO survey used the call play back method but when the Department of environment initially commissioned a survey to verify our findings, the call play back method was not used. The Department's initial verification survey did not record enough gliders to trigger a protection zone. GECO requested a second verification survey take place using the same methods used by GECO (call play back). These methods are recommended in the environment department's survey standards for Yellow Bellied Glider.
The second survey met the threshold of more than five gliders, triggering a protection zone.
The Yellow Bellied Glider is a very active, social and vocal species of gliding possum. It has a large gliding membrane that extends from the wrist to the ankle. It has a loud, distinctive call, beginning with a high-pitched shriek and subsiding into a throaty rattle. It occupies tall forests on the east coast and is generally more abundant in higher rainfall areas. It has a preference for older forests that are rich in hollow bearing trees used for nesting and denning sites.
Yellow Bellied Gliders feed primarily on plant and insect exudates, including nectar, sap, honeydew and manna with pollen and insects providing protein. They extract sap by incising (or biting into) the trunks and branches of favoured food trees, often leaving a distinctive ‘V’-shaped scar.
We're really pleased that another protection zone will be implemented as a result of our work. It shows the value of keeping an eye on the forests, whether it's monitoring logging or searching for threatened species. Without the work of our volunteers who tirelessly conduct these surveys so many areas of threatened species habitat would have been logged.