An 85-hectare parcel of vegetation in SA Water’s Middle River Reservoir Reserve has provided a haven for some of South Australia’s rare and vulnerable animal species during January’s bushfire.
Feared lost in the inferno, the Western Whipbird and Southern Brown Bandicoot are among wildlife observed by fauna monitoring cameras in the area.
The cameras were set up by Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife as part of two fauna survey sites in the unburnt critical habitat to determine how many animals survived the bushfire.
A prescribed burn of the block in 2017 lowered the fuel load, protecting the vegetation from the full impact of the bushfire and enabling refuge and food sources for the native wildlife while the surrounding bushland habitat was affected.
Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife Ecologist Heidi Groffen said the unburnt bushland within the reserve provides valuable habitat for wildlife species during the recovery period.
“We couldn’t wipe the smile from our faces when we watched the footage, the bushland will play an important role while the landscape regenerates,” Heidi said.
“The last bushfire season was like none other previously seen on the island, and the threatened wildlife we aim to protect had nowhere to go while escaping the fast-moving fire which decimated vast areas of habitat.
“Middle River’s reserve provides shelter and a diverse habitat for the woodland birds and small mammals like the Southern Brown Bandicoot which are most affected by the bushfires.
“Endangered nationally, the Southern Brown Bandicoot is known as an ecosystem engineer because they love to forage and dig regularly, which improves soil quality and creates opportunities for native plants to germinate, making them an integral part of the local ecology.
“The reserve also provides important refuge for the Western Whipbird, a ground dwelling woodland bird whose habitat has been impacted by the recent bushfire.”
The endangered Kangaroo Island Echidna and the nationally vulnerable Heath Goanna are among the wildlife observed, while other species including the Kangaroo Island Kangaroo, Brushtail Possum, Tammar Wallaby, Grey Currawong and Brush Bronzewing Pigeon also sought respite in the block.
Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife will continue monitoring the critical habitat to help understand the island’s wildlife response to the bushfire and support SA Water’s management of any identified risks such as feral cats and phytophthora cinnamomi, a soil-borne plant pathogen.
Middle River Reservoir Reserve is located on the north of Kangaroo Island and covers around 680 hectares.
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