Science at Mount Zero-Taravale helps protect Australia’s largest glider species
AWC protects an important population of the Greater Glider at Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary in north Queensland. The tall eucalypt forests at Mount Zero-Taravale are a stronghold for Australia’s largest glider species, with population densities here among the highest ever recorded.
AWC field ecologists are working in partnership with PhD researcher Denise McGregor in the first comprehensive study of Greater Gliders in the north of their range. The project examines how the gliders adapt to different environmental conditions throughout eastern Australia which will improve conservation management
The Mount Zero-Taravale population is one of four involved in the wide-ranging study by Denise McGregor. The research will investigate differences in body size between Greater Gliders in tropical northern Australia, and populations in Victoria, where the species is twice as large. It is believed that body size variations are the result of differing climates with larger body sizes more advantageous in colder climates and smaller sizes benefiting warmer temperatures. The results could help to resolve a contested theory of what factors drive the evolution of body size, with implications for the conservation of the species.
To date, 14 gliders have been caught and measured for physiological data, and nine have been fitted with GPS/radio collars at Mount Zero-Taravale. These gliders have been tracked to 20 active dens, a sample of which are being monitored with data loggers which continually record temperature and humidity. The team has carried out nearly 100 hours of spotlighting over 32 nights, and made 340 observations of gliders during that time.
AWC’s fire management program is critical to preserving the tall eucalypt forests on which the gliders depend. The gliders rely exclusively on several eucalyptus species for both their food and water. As part of the study, 300 leaf samples were taken from the canopy and will be analysed to determine any differences in the nutrient content between the study sites.
The Greater Glider project is an example of AWC’s practical, science-based approach to conservation. It will inform land management strategies to manage threats to this threatened species and help protect the important population at Mount Zero-Taravale.