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Monitoring Threatened Species on the Scenic Rim Trail

December 16, 2020

Spicer’s has developed and is now operating a multi-day bushwalking experience called the Scenic Rim Trail (SRT) that extends from privately-owned Thornton View Nature Refuge to privately-owned Spicer’s Peak Nature Refuge, via Main Range National Park. The MRNP conserves large areas of open forest and rainforest communities and small areas of montane heath. One of the largest national parks in South East Queensland, MRNP provides secure habitat for large numbers of common species and species of conservation significance and is one of 42 reserves making up the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area (GRAWHA). 

The below was written by Dr Penn in response to a request from Fassifern Valley Journalist following a Tweet by Penn after our Oct 2020 Hastings River Mouse survey.

The threatened species we are engaged by Spicers to monitor in Main Range National Park are the endangered Hastings River Mouse (Pseudomys oralis), endangered Fleay’s Barred Frog (Mixophyes fleayi) and the vulnerable Mountain Frog (Philoria kundagungan). We also monitor the critically endangered Jagara Hairy Crayfish (Euastacus jagara) as part of our monitoring of the condition of creek habitats at a couple of new hiking trail crossings.

Our monitoring is to fulfill conditions of approval of the Scenic Rim Trail project, which require that annual monitoring of various matters, including threatened species be undertaken for the first 10 years to detect whether the project has any negative impacts to the natural values of Main Range National Park and the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

We conduct an annual trapping survey for Hastings River Mouse around the Spicer’s Timber Getters Eco-camp in the Goomburra section of MRNP, where our baseline studies detected the species for the first time – previously its known northernmost range limit was at Cunninghams Gap. Small mammals are trapped in small metal Elliott box traps that are baited with an oats + peanut butter + honey + vanilla essence mix. The traps are set in the afternoon and we check them again early the next morning to identify and release the captured animals. 

A pressure plate inside the trap causes the entrance door to flip closed when triggered so the animals are captured unharmed. We set 100 traps around the eco-camp and another 100 traps at a control site away from the eco-camp. The habitat of the mouse is wet eucalypt forest close to rainforest on steep mountain slopes – it’s quite an effort setting and checking traps in that terrain. 

On this last survey we (that being my colleague Lizzy Buckby and I) had six captures (five different individuals with one recapture) of Hastings River Mouse in two nights of trapping effort, the highest trapping success rate we have had so far and all within 100m of the eco-camp, which confirms that the construction and operation of the eco-camp has not had a negative impact on Hastings River Mouse in the area so far, which is very encouraging.

Hastings River Mouse: The diagnostic features of Hastings River Mouse, those being features that distinguish it from other similar species, are the ‘Roman nose’ shape of the nose and dark ring around the eye (eye shadow).

We monitor the threatened frogs and crayfish upstream and downstream of two locations where new hiking trails cross rainforest streams that provide habitat for these species. Mountain Frogs call most actively during the day in late winter and spring from very well hidden crevices in boggy areas at the edges of high altitude rainforest streams, so we listen out for and count the number of frogs calling along 200m long transects. You can listed to a recording of the call at this website.

Fleay’s Barred Frogs are much larger but are only active at night. They breed most actively in late summer, so we count the number of frogs we see and hear calling during spotlighting surveys at night along the same transects along the streams during wet conditions after rain – they give a loud croaking call. We conduct those surveys from dusk until after midnight.

The Jagara Hairy Crayfish occupies burrows along the banks of high altitude rainforest streams, and only emerges during wet conditions at night. The crayfish has a very limited distribution, restricted to five stream catchments within Main Range National Park, and occurs nowhere else. It appears to eat mostly fallen rainforest fruits.

Spicers’ goal is to manage all land with sustainability and conservation being front of mind, to make sure the endangered, threatened and vulnerable species that inhabit the various areas have the greatest chance of survival. Click here to find out more about our sustainability initiatives.

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