Nature & Wildlife

Community collaboration with national freight company supports threatened Glossy Black-cockatoos

Two years ago, burning ancient Gondwanan Rainforests were what defined three months of Margaret Hall’s life, as the Nightcap Range in the Byron Bay hinterland lit up with a season of fire that defined 2019.
Margaret and her community watched as reports came in highlighting the destruction. As a member of her local Landcare group, one of her concerns was the impact on the environment and species living in and around the national parks.

“The fires burnt from October to December 2019, but the night we all remember here is the 8th to 9th November, when the fires really took hold and moved down into our inhabited valleys at midnight. Surrounded by sub-tropical rainforest, I guess we all thought that we were safe. It’s not a lesson that you ever forget,” said Wilson’s Creek Huonbrook Landcare member, Margaret Hall.

Already dealing with the impacts of drought and logging of old growth forest, the fires were the pinnacle of the challenges thrown at the biodiversity of the New South Wales North Coast.
“The loss was tragic, so many threatened species were impacted,” says Margaret.

Margaret says Landcare groups such as Wilson’s Creek Huonbrook Landcare were some of the first assessing the destruction and how to better support recovery and resilience of the animals and plants affected.

One of the threatened species impacted by the bushfires was the Glossy Black-cockatoo.
“Glossy black-cockatoos are such beautiful, charismatic birds but are completely reliant upon very specific habitat requirements. Hollows of the size required for cockatoos take over 200 years to form, they will only nest close to their food trees, near water for drinking, and really like nesting near each other. Tragically, not only did we lose their old-growth hollow bearing trees, we also lost large areas of their food trees.”

“The birds took refuge in another nearby national park. Although there are good stands of forest oaks, their food trees, that area has limited available hollows due to recent past logging. We knew we would need to provide alternatives.”

With funding from the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants Program, Wilson’s Creek Huonbrook Landcare installed 25 artificial hollows to help provide habitat support for the cockatoos.

“Unfortunately, in North-eastern New South Wales, to date no one has yet succeeded in encouraging Glossies to even consider artificial hollows for breeding. So, we decided to use three different styles of artificial hollow to see which style they might prefer.”
“One favoured choice was the ‘Cockatube’, which was developed in Western Australia, and has been successfully used for Glossy Black-cockatoos on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Our challenge lay in that we needed them shipped from Western Australia to New South Wales but with COVID shutting down the borders all the companies who had given us quotes to freight them either had tripled their prices or just weren’t doing it at all! We were ready to give up or looking at having to change our project completely. It was devastating. Drought, bushfire, flood and now COVID’. It was just a lot to deal with.”

Here, Margaret says, is where community spirit and connection stepped in.

“My brother had a contact at Northline, so I asked if they might consider taking our shipment from Perth to the Byron hinterland, and what would it cost. Not only did they say yes, but after hearing that it was for a fire affected species they offered to ship it for free!”

Northline CEO, Craige Whitton, said they were proud to have lent their support to Wilsons Creek Huonbrook Landcare in shipping the nesting tubes from Western Australia to the Byron Hinterland.

“Northline saw this as a way to provide practical support to the project by transporting cockatoo nesting tubes from Perth to North-East New South Wales and helping support bushfire recovery activities for Wilson’s Creek Huonbrook Landcare and the glossy black-cockatoo in NSW,” said Craige.

The hollows are now installed at a number of scientifically selected sites where the Glossies are known to feed.
“Thanks to Northline we were able to provide a choice of new breeding hollows close to the Glossies’ food trees,” says Margaret.

“We will now monitor their use to learn what works and what doesn’t, so we can hopefully see a successful breeding event and continue to see this majestic species continue for future generations.”
The Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery project has been supported by the Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery Program for Wildlife and their Habitat.

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