A Hunter Landcare group is on a mission to save the vulnerable squirrel glider by rehabilitating a local habitat important for its survival
Fern Creek Landcare, which operates out of several adjoining sites in Dudley, has embarked on the $20,000 project funded by a Federal Government grant they applied for through Shortland MP Pat Conroy.
Squirrel gliders are vulnerable in NSW, but the Landcare group says the species is endangered in the Hunter and along the coastline.
Joint coordinator Gabrielle Stacey said the Fern Creek site between Glenrock and Awabakal was an important area of habitat for the species.
"They're really important little pollinators," Ms Stacey said. "And they're really cute!
"Our site is a really important area for them.
"We've been monitoring their home range and we realised they need more habitat than we first thought, which is why it's even more important to conserve it.
"They have really high site fidelity so relocation is not really an option for them."
Fellow joint coordinator Peter Dalton, who started the Landcare group back in 2004, said the size of their habitat had been "eroded and reduced" over time.
"Because we humans like living along the coast as well, which has lead to fragmentation," Mr Dalton said.
The squirrel glider project involves several aspects, including the employment of professional ecologists who have trapped and tracked five squirrel gliders to find out their behaviours, movements and needs.
The five gliders, which included a mating pair, have since been released but Ms Stacey said they planned to trap and track more again in November.
Squirrel gliders are nectivorous so the group is also working to provide a year round source of native flowers and also remove a huge amount of bitou bush that has grown at the site.
"It's a horrendous South African weed which takes over the native plants," Ms Stacey said. "It sits all around dunes at the beach."
As a further helpful hand for the critters, the project also involves installing nesting boxes in trees for the gliders.
"There's a real lack of hollows," Ms Stacey said. "A lot of the old growth was removed when the area was mined."
Education is another part of the project. Ms Stacey said a large portion of the funding had gone towards an online learning program and to creating a documentary about the project.
Mr Dalton said the initiative had only been a success so far due to the enthusiasm of many volunteers, many of whom are quite young.
"We now have a pool of about 140 volunteers," he said.
"About 85 per cent are under 35, and we have one as young as 11."
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