Bringing back the Eastern Bettong and other priority endemic endangered species. Orana Park Safe Haven

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Eastern Bettongs are ecosystem engineers who, when scratching and foraging, improve water retention in the soil, create inter-tussock spaces, increase composting and support the recovery of threatened box gum woodlands they reside in.

The Foundation for Australia’s Endangered Species will join with partners to reintroduce the Eastern Bettong into Victoria.

Orana Park Safe Haven, in Central Victoria, will be over 200 hectares of pristine Plains Grasslands and Chenopod Shrublands and Plains Woodlands Forests habitat on the Loddon River. A 5.5 km feral proof fence will be installed around the native vegetation in order to form a safe haven. Creating a new safe haven will not only support an additional population of Eastern Bettongs but will also protect all endemic flora and fauna from cats and foxes. The additional population will also further enable the supply of future founders for other reintroductions on the mainland and contribute to a meta-population model guided by recommendations from our project partners at Australian National University who lead the research at Mulligans Flat.

The Eastern Bettong is listed as one of the 20 mammals targeted for recovery by 2020 under Australia’s National Threatened Species Strategy.

The Project will aim to support other collateral beneficiaries including:

  • a number of endemic flora and fauna species of significance,
  • Brush-tail Phascogales,
  • Yellow-footed and Agile Antechinus,
  • Fat-tail Dunnarts, abd
  • various amphibians and reptiles including
    • Legless Lizards,
    • bird species including Swift Parrots and Plains Wanderers and
    • a large variety of wildflowers and orchids.

The Orana Park Safe Haven is located on Borung-Hurstwood Road, Borung in central Victoria, which sits it within a prime location for several high value threatened flora and fauna. It forms part of the 200km bio-link between Mt Kooyong to the Loddon River. The property is of high conservation value and shows significant potential for the re-introduction of some of Victoria’s most threatened fauna such as the Eastern Bettong, Eastern Quoll and Eastern Barred Bandicoot.

Conservation Outcomes:

Improved threatened species outcomes – This site has the capacity to support a number of species currently listed as priority species under the Threatened Species Strategy, such as the Eastern Bettong. Safe havens provide a vital step in reversing species decline. We expect to have self-sustaining population within three years.

Improved ecosystem health – Eastern Bettongs are ecosystem engineers and would significantly improve the condition of the critically endangered Box Gum Grassy Woodland, turning over the soil spreading microbes and allowing nutrients and water to penetrate and assist in vegetation growth. Increased populations of endemic carnivorous marsupials such as the antechinus, dunnart and quoll will prevent insect plagues due to increased biomass as a result from rabbit eradication.

Partners to the project include:

  • Tiverton Agriculture Impact Fun,
  • Odonata,
  • Mt Rothwell Conservation Centre,
  • Mulligans Flat,
  • Australian National University,
  • Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner, and
  • the University of Melbourne.

Photo credit: JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons