Mahogany gliders as we approach Threatened Species Day 2012

Mungarru Lodge Sanctuary

Daryl Dickson & Geoff Moffatt

Mahogany gliders as we approach Threatened Species Day 2012

“How are the mahogany gliders doing?”

My response at present includes a large sigh and a deep intake of breath to try to ensure that I give a measured answer.

The answer I think is still that we just don’t have enough information to be sure how they are doing.

Post cyclone surveys carried out in 2011 had found enough gliders to make us think that they were managing to find food, despite the lack of blossom and that some were breeding.  The success of the breeding season’s young of 2011 is unknown.

The mahogany glider has always been a cryptic and illusive species to monitor and this added to less than ideal trapping hours due to inclement weather and reduced resources make it even more difficult to assess their progress this year.

Camera trapping is continuing, with QPWS and Girringun Rangers monitoring various sites. WPSQ’s cameras are in use too but little is being observed at present. Muller’s Creek survey site south of Cardwell normally provides a healthy population of gliders during trapping. In the past six months only one mahogany glider has been found and trapping done to date in Dr Steve Jackson’s survey area has also only revealed one mahogany glider.  This may be due to changes in their territories post cyclone or a natural cycle of events after such a major cyclone or even due to the exceptionally wet months we have had through the dry season- it really is so hard to know. It would appear that it is not just gliders that are in short supply at present; while trapping it is quite usual to have a number of euromys, melomys and striped possums feeding at the trapping stations but the cameras have only revealed one bush rat and one melomys. It would seem that there is a lack of small mammals in general at present.

At Mungarru Lodge Sanctuary we have been stunned by the lack of nocturnal mammal activity and the silence of our forest for nearly a year now. The sanctuary is a very tenuous remnant of mahogany glider habitat but during the last two decades we have grown accustomed to the presence of a healthy number of mahogany gliders, sugar gliders, feather tailed gliders, striped possums, euromys, melomys and antechinus. They certainly aren’t here at present.

I spotlight most nights for eye shine in our treetops and have seen and heard nothing.  In this damaged habitat we observed the Rufous Owl hunting for many months after the cyclone and can only assume that many of our resident mammals have fallen prey to this powerful and relentless hunter.

Interestingly, within the cyclone area, very few mammals of any sort are coming into care through wildlife rescue at the moment too.

Trapping with both live capture traps and camera traps will continue in the months to come.

There is no doubt that these cyclonic events are natural and that many of these species have cycles of feast and famine in response to these events. The mahogany glider breeds well in good seasons and appears to be very adaptable with a broad diet to help it overcome one food source shortage by switching to another.

I know that many of us are wondering just how “resilient” a glider has to be to survive all the challenges that are facing the mahogany glider.

We are lucky to have a dedicated team of people who are still fighting the good fight to try to maintain habitat and connectivity.

The voices of science tell us not to panic, so I guess we will just keep looking and listening for all the magic night time voices of the forest to return.

The moment we see eye shine in our torch beam or hear the gurgle of a glider we will let you know!

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