In 2013 the Clarence Environment Centre (CEC), local provider of the national Land for Wildlife program, initiated what has become known as the Emu Gully re-vegetation project. In partnership with a private landowner near Pillar Valley, the previously cleared, mown gully has now been landscaped and planted by volunteers, creating a corridor containing specific feed species for our embattled Coastal Emus as well as other wildlife.
Nine months later shrubs and young trees, helped by recent rains, are well over head height, and significantly the landowners have recently reported seeing an emu with 5 chicks. Amid speculation that Emu numbers have fallen to well below the previous estimate of 100 birds, this is great news indeed.
However the CEC is not getting too excited about the chicks at this stage. As Emus lay upwards of 15 eggs there should be an expectation of at least 10 chicks surviving, but wild dogs, cats, foxes and feral pigs are having a negative impact on their survival, and ultimately on the survival of the Coastal Emu.
A further positive note is that, with land-use changes in the Pillar Valley in the past 30 years, Koalas might potentially be reintroduced, or naturally disperse back to the area. In 2012 the CEC identified fresh Koala scats and scratches throughout the Sandy Crossing travelling stock route, near Wants Lane, and botanic surveys have since revealed considerable tracts of suitable habitat over many properties in the area.
Now, with some help by the National Parks & Wildlife Foundation under the Private Land Conservation Grants program, CEC's Land for Wildlife assessor, Peter Turland, has embarked on two other local projects. One, dubbed Koala Gully, again undertaken largely by the landowners, is focused on re-establishing a forested corridor with koalas' preferred feed trees, particularly Forest Red Gum, Grey Gum and Tallowwoods.
The third project, probably the most ambitious, is aimed at restoring a 2 hectare site with Subtropical Coastal Floodplain Forest, along river flats adjoining Chaffin Creek that were previously cleared for agriculture.
Well done Land for Wildlife, and well done Pete.
- Patricia Edwards
This post was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on Monday 22 September, 2014.