Greater Gliders are the largest gliding marsupials in the world. They are nocturnal, feed on eucalyptus leaves and spend their days nestled in the nooks of their favourite trees. They can travel up to 100 metres in a single glide using their long tails to steer.
Greater gliders were once abundant along Australia’s east coast, but populations have declined by as much as 80% in the last 20 years due to habitat destruction including land-clearing and logging, as well as bushfires fuelled by a rapidly changing climate. Last year, their status was updated from “vulnerable” to “endangered” under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
More than 30 per cent of greater glider habitat burned in the 2019-20 bushfires, with the loss of many hollow-bearing trees. They require multiple large tree hollows from old growth trees for rest, shelter and a safe place to raise their young. Well-developed hollows can take 80 to 100 years to form, and they are not easily replaceable.
Nest boxes can provide alternative shelter to natural hollows, but scientists found traditional models with thin walls can become far hotter than tree hollows and expose the greater gliders to heat stress. Researchers came up with a solution using scientific knowledge of modern building standards to create safe homes for this iconic species. The Australian National University, Greening Australia, and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia teamed up to place more than 200 high-tech thermally appropriate nesting boxes in fire-affected forests in New South Wales. The nest boxes utilise insulation, air gaps, and heat reflective, fire-resistant, non-toxic coatings.
A study using motion-triggered cameras has revealed the animals were quickly moving into the nest boxes. World Wide Fund for Nature Australia's threatened species and climate adaptation ecologist Dr Kita Ashman said she spotted a glider in the second nest box she checked.
"I just burst into tears, I was so surprised and so happy," Dr Ashman told ABC news.
Main article image by Josh Bowell.
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