Just across the road from Melbourne Airport, Conservation Volunteers Australia is protecting Victoria’s most endangered marsupial, the Eastern Barred Bandicoot.
Melbourne Airport has partnered with Conservation Volunteers Australia since 2013 to support the Eastern Barred Bandicoot through the Healthy Habitats program. The program is located at Woodlands Historic Park in Greenvale, right next door to the Melbourne Airport and is in partnership with Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment Land Water Planning, the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team and Zoos Victoria. This critical wildlife conservation project forms part of Wild Futures, Conservation Volunteers Australia’s national wildlife conservation program.
The bandicoot is now considered extinct in the wild due to predation from foxes and cats as well as external pressures, resulting in habitat loss. Less than 1% of native grasslands and grassy woodlands in which the bandicoot formerly occurred have disappeared.
The strategy to ensure the survival of the species is the establishment and maintenance of at least three reintroduced, free-ranging populations across Victoria. At Woodlands Historic Park, initially volunteers installed a predator proof fence in an area known as the ‘Back Paddock’ for the bandicoot. Since 2013, Eastern Barred Bandicoots have been released into the wild and are successfully breeding and building up numbers.
“Since we first released 47 bandicoots into the site at Woodlands in July 2013 we have seen the population steadily increase and now there are 3 sites working towards the objective of take the bandicoot off the endangered list. This would be only the second time in Australia that we would have brought an animal back from extinction in the wild. Without the support of partners like Melbourne Airport we quite simply could not carry out this work.” Travis Scicchitano, Project Officer – Woodlands, Conservation Volunteers Australia
Ongoing community-based scientific monitoring provides regular checks on the bandicoots population health and the results indicate a very healthy population that is continuing to increase. In fact the success of the program has led to Conservation Volunteers managing a second property in Hamilton where bandicoots from Woodlands were relocated and released in 2016 and now call home. A third population of bandicoot are based at Tiverton. Earlier this year bandicoots were also released on Phillip Island, a fox free island.
The Eastern Barred Bandicoot program aims to:
- Maintain predator free safe sanctuaries for the bandicoot at Woodlands
- Restore and maintain essential habitat for the survival of the bandicoot
- Contribute to the relocation and release of bandicoots to Hamilton, Western Victoria
- Educate local residents about the bandicoot recovery program
- Involve local residents in family volunteering days to assist in maintaining the bandicoot’s habitat
Community volunteers are integral to the work that we do at Woodlands. Volunteers have worked to remove herbaceous and woody weeds from the back paddock and have planted over 25,000 new grasses, creating new habitat for the bandicoots, as well as repairing predator proof fences. Melbourne Airport has hosted Family and Friend weekend opportunities, allowing locals to come along and prepare bandicoot bait food that is used for trapping and monitoring, as well as watching and sorting video surveillance.
“I have been contributing to the fence monitoring for a number of years. As my interest grew and I learnt more about the Bandicoots I asked Travis if I could observe a scheduled Bandicoot monitoring program at the Park. And sure enough I was on the team and given an opportunity to take part. Seeing real life Eastern Barred Bandicoots that were obviously thriving and breeding was truly special. I feel a sense of stewardship towards the Bandicoot program and the Park. I will definitely encourage my son, family, local school and friends to support the Eastern Barred Bandicoots and ensure their survival”. Matt Cooper, Community Volunteer