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Safeguarding iconic malleefowl

Submitted by Alex Taylor
on September 01, 2011

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Department of Environment and Natural Resources
1 September 2011

Habitat loss through land clearing, bushfire and grazing livestock, predation by foxes and cats and even climate change have been cited as some of the elements threatening the existence of iconic malleefowl.

Once widespread across much of South Australia and common in other states, malleefowl populations have been gradually declining, resulting in the listing of the species as ‘vulnerable’ both nationally and within South Australia.

Strategies to conserve the large, ground-dwelling birds have been developed by the National Malleefowl Recovery Team, which recently met at the National Malleefowl Forum at Renmark.
According to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Biodiversity Status Assessment Officer Sharon Gillam, who is also chair of the National Malleefowl Recovery Team, breeding densities of malleefowl appear to be declining at a rate between two and three per cent per annum.

“Land clearing has resulted in the loss and fragmentation of malleefowl habitat, leaving only small, isolated populations vulnerable to landscape-scale events such as bushfires, drought and disease, as well as predation,” Ms Gillam said.

“Described as one of the world’s hardest working birds, malleefowl spend up to 300 days a year digging and maintaining nest mounds, which can be over a metre high and four metres wide.

“Temperature is an important cue for malleefowl breeding and warmer spring seasons have been associated with earlier laying dates for malleefowl and this may result in changes to the length of incubation periods and severe disadvantage if there is a mismatch between hatching and food availability.”

Ms Gillam said the recovery effort was focussed on controlling predator species such as foxes and cats, reducing grazing pressure, developing habitat corridors to connect isolated populations, surveying in priority areas and raising community awareness.

“The National Malleefowl Recovery Team will oversee these activities, providing input into management techniques and future planning,” Ms Gillam added.

“Along with a national approach, within South Australia DENR is developing regional conservation strategies to manage existing malleefowl populations.

“DENR undertakes spring and autumn prescribed burns to reduce the risk of wildfire, along with regional fox baiting programs.

“DENR welcomes volunteer participation in mound monitoring, we also ask for sightings of malleefowl to be reported to Biological Database of South Australia 8222 9441 or email DENRBioDataSupport@sa.gov.au.”




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