Restora­tion mis­sion

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS FRONT - BRUCE MOUNSTER

MOVES are afoot to send more Tas­ma­nian wildlife to the main­land in the next stage of restor­ing long lost ecosys­tems.

Since 2012, a group of 32 Tas­ma­nian bet­tongs have been help­ing re­ha­bil­i­tate the ecosys­tem at the Mul­li­gans Flat Wood­land Sanc­tu­ary in Can­berra.

The the next phase of this ex­per­i­men­tal pro­ject will rein­tro­duce wild quolls from Tas­ma­nia as soon as next year.

Quolls have been ex­tinct in the Mul­li­gans area from the 1960s and bet­tongs since the early 1900s.

Adrian Man­ning, an ecol­o­gist at the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity, speak­ing at the Aus­tralian Mam­mal So­ci­ety con­fer­ence in Ho­bart, said the pro­ject in­volv­ing the ACT Gov­ern­ment and Aus­tralian Re­search Coun­cil was de­vel­op­ing the sanc­tu­ary as a 485ha eco­log­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory.

Prof Man­ning said when bet­tongs dug holes while hunt­ing for na­tive truf­fles, they aided the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of de­graded soils, to im­prove wa­ter in­fil­tra­tion and plant ger­mi­na­tion.

He said of the 60 bet­tongs taken to Can­berra, 32 had been re­leased into the sanc­tu­ary be­hind preda­tor-proof fences where they had been busy breed­ing.

“There are now 200. They have been do­ing re­ally well,’’ he said, adding that the bet­tongs were also re­spon­si­ble for about half of the dig­ging that went on in the sanc­tu­ary.

He said quolls had been se­lected to per­form the pri­mary preda­tor role, and there were plans to rein­tro­duce other species, from other states, to eat down plants and catch in­sects.

Prof Man­ning said the Mul­li­gans pro­ject was in­tended to act as a guide for the po­ten­tial restora­tion of vast tracts of de­graded ecosys­tems on the Aus­tralian main­land.

He said fences to pro­tect large ar­eas from feral preda­tors such as foxes would not be fea­si­ble, but it was hoped that din­goes could play a key role in keep­ing foxes at bay.

Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia zo­ol­o­gist Menna Jones said bandi­coots, pademel­ons and Tas­ma­nian devils could also act as ecosys­tem in­flu­encers for restor­ing the health, vi­brancy and beauty of many parts of Aus­tralia.

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