In this Issue Keeping Cats Safe at Home Project Connecting to Nature Update Farewell to Linda Thomas Resolving a Bushcare Challenge Vale Chris Watson Sandstone Plateau Vegetation Green Waste Processing Sustainable Disposal of Weed Waste for Bushcare
S4W have an upcoming webinar on 28 May at 11 am -12pm where they will provide an update on their two koala projects, we’re they would love it if you could join them.
Please see all additional information on the webinar below.
‘Tune in online for an overview of all the work we have been doing to map and track surviving koalas after the 2019/20 bushfires, as well as the latest news from our project monitoring koalas after they are released from care. There will be an opportunity for a Q&A at the end of the webinar.’
By Jessie Malpass (Communications Officer, Science for Wildlife)
Rescued Koalas returned to the Bush (plus 1)
As the massive bushfires were consuming the Greater Blue Mountains area, Science for Wildlife leapt into action and saved 12 koalas. With the help of volunteers and wildlife experts, Executive Director Dr Kellie Leigh and her team did everything they could to save as many koalas as possible from the approaching fires. These koalas were taken to Taronga Zoo for three months and were returned once it was safe to do so.
In March 2020, Science for Wildlife returned not 12 but 13 koalas to the wild! One of the koalas gave birth to a tiny joey after she was rescued.
Post-fire scat surveys tracking the koalas
Now, it has been just over 12 months since the last of the 2019/2020 bushfires, Science for Wildlife has been working hard to track surviving koalas. They have been monitoring the koalas that were saved ahead of the fires to learn how they use the landscape after fire, as well as heading out to five study sites across the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury to conduct scat surveys and find out how many koalas survived, and where.
Since September 2020 they have completed over 200 scat surveys with the help of volunteers, and have another 250 to go this time, using their koala detection dog team, including Smudge the Coolie. Conserving koalas in unburnt areas including around private properties is now more important than ever, and so Science for Wildlife conducted a recent ‘Community Attitude Survey’ to identify barriers to conservation. The results from the surveys will guide the information that S4W shares with communities, to improve outcomes for koalas and other species.
Camera Trap Project – calling for volunteers!!!
Help us work out which species used water and food stations during the bushfires
In March 2020, the last of the devastating 2019/20 bushfires were put out but Science for Wildlife was still on emergency response for wildlife, putting out water stations and food for any remaining wildlife in burnt areas. After the huge effort to place the food and water stations in the bush, Science for Wildlife wanted to evaluate if their efforts were worthwhile, so a team of staff and volunteers put out camera traps to monitor the water and food stations – hoping to capture images showing a range of wildlife benefiting from these stations.
Then COVID-19 hit, and the team were unable to bring the cameras back in to analyse the images and had to leave them out for a few months. For the remainder of 2020, Science for Wildlife focused on broadscale surveys to map surviving koalas to inform population recovery.
The team at Science for Wildlife would love your help to look through the camera trap images to see what we can discover! Fortunately, this summer has been kinder, but more hot summers and droughts will come, and the findings will help to guide welfare efforts for koalas and other species during the next extreme weather event. Water stations were placed up in trees and on the ground, so you will be looking for a range of arboreal and ground animals as well as birds. We cannot wait to see what animals you find! All you will need is a computer and internet connection.
Here are the questions Science for Wildlife are looking to answer:
Which water stations designs were used, were some used more than others?
Were the water stations still used after the heavy rains arrived?
Which species used the water and the food drops?
Which sites had more wildlife using the resources we put out, and how does that relate to fire intensity in that area?
Where were feral animals present, and how many were there compared to native wildlife?
Outstanding citizens were celebrated at Blue Mountains City Council’s annual Australia Day Awards on 26 January, 2021.
Environmental Citizen of the Year – Lis Bastian
Congratulations to Lis Bastian – a founding member of one our new bushcare groups – Blackheath Community Farm Landcare.
For years, Lis Bastian has devoted herself to helping others live more sustainably. She does this by leading by example and by teaching people of all ages about permaculture and environmental responsibility.
Lis created The Big Fix (www.thebigfixblackheath.org) which is a social enterprise that focuses on ‘changing the story.’ The initiative has enabled a collaborative, solutions-based culture to grow and thrive in the Blue Mountains and beyond.
Other projects that have been spearheaded by Lis, include a Community Farm in Blackheath which she regularly reports on through Facebook to inspire others. Lis also set up and now runs ‘Pluriversity’, which provides a range of learning opportunities for young people who have left school engage with one another and the wider community.
Lis reaches out to others and builds partnerships with unlimited generosity and devotion to protecting the environment.
The full list Awards recipients included:
Young Citizens of the Year – Annelise Schroder and Harry Elbourne
Citizen of the Year – John Turner
Senior Citizens of the Year – Peter A. Kidd and Rosemary Hart
Environmental Citizen of the Year – Lis Bastian
Community Achievement of the Year – Blue Fringe Arts and Literature Exhibition.
RSPCA Landcare Group has been working for over 11 years to restore Woodland and EPBC Listed Swamp on the 4.4 ha RSPCA site in Mort Street North Katoomba. This bushland site contributes to a continuous bushland corridor along Katoomba Creek into the Grose Valley.
The buildings, pounds and exercise yards are at the top of the slope near Mort Street, below which is a fence separating the woodland where the Landcare group primarily works. Below the woodland a Blue Mountains Swamps runs down to Katoomba Creek.
RSPCA Landcare has removed a large weed plume of blackberry, cotoneaster, cherry laurel, broom and holly). We are now working on scattered weeds as well as pushing back an edge of holly.
We welcome more members to join us and enjoy this lovely bushland. Swamp wallabies regularly graze in the Swamp. The Landcare site contains diverse bushland showcasing the spectacular colour of native wildflowers in Spring 2020.
Wildlife Recovery Centre
We support a proposal for a wildlife recovery centre here in the Blue Mountains.
Our work has successfully restored the swamp and woodland on the RSPCA site for local native wildlife, which is now an excellent location for the rehabilitation of injured animals.
The RSPCA has announced that it has received provisional approval from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for a wildlife rehabilitation license for a dual occupancy site that will allow us to care for companion animals as well as wildlife. (RSPCA Media Unit 9/10/2020)
This proposal has raised 3 issues:
Is it needed?
Will the domestic Animal Shelter continue?
Can wildlife and domestic animals be cared for on this same site without further stress?
The 2019/2020 bushfires saw many injured wildlife sent to Taronga Zoo for care by specialist staff. For months, dedicated volunteers collected huge amounts of leaves locally and delivered them to the zoo for koalas.
This highlighted the need for a permanent wildlife care and rehabilitation facility closer to where our native animals live, and without the transport problems of a central Sydney location. This centre will not replace the need for WIRES carers to continue their invaluable work, but work alongside and complement that important service.
Continuation of Katoomba Shelter for Companion Animals
There is considerable concern in the community that this is an attempt by the RSPCA to close the shelter, as it attempted to do in 2014. As some of our members were involved in the successful community action to stop this closure, we believe this is a justifiable concern. We recognise that having a local shelter for cats and dogs reduces the likelihood of their being dumped in the bush and preying on native species.
RSPCA NSW appears to have given contradictory information to the Blue Mountains Branch, the Landcare group and Gazette about the continuation of the shelter for dogs.
In a report to the branch on August 1 2020, Rita Perkins (Senior Operations manager, RSPCA NSW) stated that if successful in obtaining the licence, then the site will not be able to look after dogs. Maybe there has been a change of plan? If so, it just needs to be acknowledged.
RSPCA NSW’s Wildlife Manager Nick de Vos stated (29/9/2020) that the RSPCA intends to continue to provide essential services to stray, lost, injured, neglected and at-risk animals and pet owners in the Blue Mountains community.
The RSPCA Media Unit issued the following statement on 9/10/2020 We announced earlier this year that, as part of our commitment to the people and animals of New South Wales, we are exploring establishing a facility that can manage both companion animals and wildlife at our Blue Mountains site.
We are pleased to announce that we have received provisional approval from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for a wildlife rehabilitation license, which means we are one step closer to making the project happen! The proposal submitted is for a dual occupancy site that will allow us to care for companion animals as well as wildlife. We still have a long way to go with this journey, but this approval means that the government has granted us permission to proceed with the design and development of the facility.
We are in the process of submitting a proposal to Blue Mountains City Council to continue to provide impound animal management services for the region on behalf of Council. Next, we will be submitting a Development Application to Blue Mountains City Council for the development of the dual occupancy site. The site has the size, space and potential to successfully manage both companion animals and wildlife. The design of the proposed infrastructure and enclosures are being carefully considered with this objective in mind. Has there been a change of plan?
3. Stress free care for both domestic and native animals?
How can the traditional role of the shelter continue alongside this proposed wildlife rehabilitation area? How can each companion animal and native animal be cared for in a safe, stress-free environment?
The size and shape of the site could allow for separation of functions. The cats that come into RSPCA are now housed in a custom-built indoor cattery and dogs are housed in concrete kennels. We understand that the use of indoor facilities for dogs is being researched and considered. Indoor shelters for dogs are common in many cold European countries for climatic reasons.
The current Taronga Zoo situation has very limited space and a wide range of animals in close proximity. Whilst more details are required, the Landcare group supports the Wildlife Recovery Centre in principle as a way to enable more wildlife to be rehabilitated closer to their natural habitats.
Native wildlife populations have been and continue to be greatly impacted by natural disasters and habitat loss, we therefore believe it is important to explore opportunities like this to invest in their care and recovery.