You are here

Endangered southern brown bandicoot at risk as proposed habitat corridors deemed 'not cost-effective' - Article by Sara Phillips (ABC)

Introduction by candobetter.net editor: This article reflects interviews with Frankston natural scientist, Hans Brunner, who has spent decades of his life trying to save the southern brown bandicoot, as many of those who know Hans are aware. Here the ABC takes up Hans's argument about the $20m promised by the State Government to be spent protecting bandicoot habitat that was threatened by Peninsula Link was never used as promised for a fox-proof fence. "Peninsula Link dutifully spent $20 million of taxpayers' money on the underpass, and handed over $1.6 million to Parks Victoria for the fence. But Parks Victoria never built the fence. At the completion of the freeway in 2013, and with only a single bandicoot hair detected two years prior, Parks Victoria chose to direct the money intended for the fence to bandicoot programs near Cranbourne..." in an area now allocated for a projected housing development. This is totally outrageous by Parks Victoria and by the government with which it is too closely aligned. Surely the current Parks Victoria Board should be sacked. Planning documents from 2011 show wide reserves with predator-proof fencing. But a 2012 revision made them a dotted line — an option if Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt required it. Mr Hunt failed to do so. His dereliction with regard to this unique creature in the world, the southern brown bandicoot, seems to be his support for by Melbourne's [over]development. A Dubai conference recently named Greg Hunt 'the best environment minister in the world' seems a reflection of extreme cynicism or a calculated insult to the Australian public. Good on the ABC for promoting this investigation. Article by Sara Phillips, first published on http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-28/survival-of-rare-melbourne-bandicoots-under-threat/7181580

 Isoodon obesulus obesulus — Southern Brown Bandicoot

Photo:

The southern brown bandicoot once thrived in the Melbourne region. Now the Melbourne population is down to the 400 or so inside the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens. (Supplied: Hayley Davis)


Map:
Cranbourne 3977

Wildlife corridors that experts say are crucial to the survival of Melbourne's last remaining population of southern brown bandicoots may not go ahead if documents from the Victorian State Government are any guide.

Key points:

  • Bandicoot is listed as nationally endangered
  • New housing development near bandicoots' stronghold planned
  • Bandicoot wildlife corridors downgraded to "contingency project"
  • Bandicoot enthusiast Hans Brunner is campaigning to save them

Revisions of state planning documents for a new housing development near the bandicoots' stronghold in the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens downgraded the wildlife corridors planned for the suburb to a "contingency project".

The Victorian Government's own bandicoot strategy said the corridors were not cost effective.

Development is yet to commence, but bandicoot lovers said the Government has all but written off the species within Melbourne city-limits.

The small brown marsupial is listed as nationally endangered. They were once abundant across Melbourne and they are found scattered throughout Victoria and South Australia in small pockets.

For bandicoot enthusiast Hans Brunner, the threat to the Cranbourne bandicoots is a case of history repeating.

Bandicoots once thrived at The Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve, a patch of bush in the back blocks of Frankston on Melbourne's urban edge, just 10 kilometres from the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens.

Mr Brunner campaigned to save The Pines' bandicoots as urban development, feral foxes and cats took their toll. When help finally came it was too late.

The Pines was split by a freeway in 2010. Federal environment laws aimed at protecting the bandicoot dictated that an underpass must be built for the bandicoots and a predator-proof fence installed around the 220-hectare reserve.

Peninsula Link dutifully spent $20 million of taxpayers' money on the underpass, and handed over $1.6 million to Parks Victoria for the fence.

But Parks Victoria never built the fence.

At the completion of the freeway in 2013, and with only a single bandicoot hair detected two years prior, Parks Victoria chose to direct the money intended for the fence to bandicoot programs near Cranbourne.

Chris Hardman, regional director for Melbourne for Parks Victoria said: "With so many pressures on that small parcel of land, it's really difficult to secure a species. And that's why I think the investment in [the Cranbourne area] will better secure the future of the southern brown bandicoot than we could possibly ever achieve than in such an impacted landscape as The Pines."

Mr Brunner was outraged that $20 million was wasted because of the failure to spend a fraction of that on a fence.

"$20 million of our money has been spent and now they've abandoned the bandicoot plan completely for The Pines and this money's just wasted. Public money's wasted."

But Mr Hardman said the area from the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens to Westernport Bay has a larger population of bandicoots, more space to work with and a fighting chance of securing their long-term survival.

Wildlife corridors were planned to run through the proposed Botanic Ridge housing development, aiming to allow bandicoots in the Gardens behind predator-proof fencing to breed, slip out through special bandicoot gates and spread into nearby suitable areas.

"Linking landscapes is a really important thing to do and that's one of the great opportunities with the Westernport reserves, that we are much easier able to link those landscapes with large parcels of land," Mr Hardman said.

Terry Coates, a bandicoot expert who works at the Cranbourne Gardens, agreed that corridors were key to the species' long-term survival.

"We've been very keen to see those corridors leading away from us out into the surrounding landscape, not to see our population isolated and locked up," he said.

But the corridors favoured by Mr Hardman and Dr Coates are looking increasingly unlikely, meaning the future for this endangered species is far from guaranteed.

Planning documents from 2011 show wide reserves with predator-proof fencing. But a 2012 revision made them a dotted line — an option if Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt required it.

When asked whether the Minister had required the corridors, a spokesperson for the Federal Department of Environment said Mr Hunt had "endorsed the Program of the Victorian Government for Melbourne's urban growth".

These Victorian documents from 2014 included the option of corridors but noted that the corridors were "less cost-effective than alternative conservation measures".

The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning was unable to provide further details on the future for the corridors.

Dr Pia Lentini, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, said governments have a responsibility to protect Australian wildlife.

"They have a mandate to protect these species and make sure they don't go extinct. And in order to do that they need to consider more carefully what's going in Australian cities and towns," she said.

Cities are surprising refuges for endangered Australian species, according to recent research from Dr Lentini.

"If you pick a random point across Australia if it's in a city you'll find about 10 threatened species and if it's outside a city you'll find about three," she said.

"At the moment there seems to be a bit of a perception that cities are a bit of a write-off for threatened species conservation — that populations in cites are too far gone or a too small.

"But our analysis really shows that if we put in a bit of effort we can make a big difference just by focusing on cities."

AttachmentSize
Image icon bandicoot-crop.jpg5.29 KB

Comments

As (stated in this article) 10 threatened species will be found in areas around or in a city and most of Australia's massive human population growth accumulates in these same areas the wildlife picture in Australia is very dismal. This is depressing for to those of us who care deeply about this. It is also a negative for those who don't care and those who haven't been born.

This is the level of our "environmental" protection - that urban sprawl is considered more "cost effective" than any fences to protect our native species! Native species protection is not about "costs" above benefits. We have environmental laws to protect native flora and fauna, that can just be ignored when convenient?
The money towards corridors for the Southern Brown Bandicoot just just disappear?
We are locked in to a Colonial, cancerous type of economy, of new settlers, housing expansion, vegetation clearing, or taming the bush, and unbending never-ending "growth" at whatever cost. This type of encroachment onto native species habitats is a Third World problem, not one of a so-called leading, developed economy like that of Australia!

This morning I was talking to a friend on the phone about a variety of things when I mentioned the bandicoot situation. My friend said she had seen the ABC news item last Sunday and was upset about it. She went quiet and said she couldn't cope with contemplating it. Her reasonably happy aspect fell audibly into a sort of depressed helplessness. I know that I cannot discuss the bandicoots again with this friend as she will find my company too painful. It's not that she doesn't care. She cares greatly but does not know what can be done. I feel the need to discuss it because I do know that something can be done. The extinction of the bandicoots is not inevitable.

Yes, one gets the feeling that, if it were the thylacine (Tasmanian wolf) Mr Hunt, Mr Turnbull, Mr Shorten, and practically every politician in state or federal parliament, including the Greens, would allow it to happen all over again. We seem to be ruled by people who are totally blind to nature except as a sort of discreet thin wallpaper or moving screensaver on their televisions. A few days ago I heard 3AW's Tom Elliot interview Richard di Natale. Tom mentioned that the new Canberra airport seems to be ridiculously large for Canberra's population - as big as Tullamarine - and Di Natale said blandly something like, "Not when you realise how much Canberra is going to grow." I wrote an article, ACT Roo killings: Who profits? Behind the Earless Dragon mask?, a few years ago about the official line on the Belconnen Kangaroo massacres, where it was clear that the kangaroos were in the way of development, notably of the airport, and that the so-called research determining that they were 'overpopulating' did not even try to work out whether they were locally born or migrants and used arbitrary definitions of population density that were completely undermined by the pHD work of one of their chief scientists. To hear Di Natale glibly normalise Canberra's population growth was just sickening.

It doesn't come as any surprise in one of the most densely populated areas of Australia, St. Kilda that thugs have attacked 2 (at least) fairy penguins in recent days. One penguin died and the fate of the other one is unknown. The colony is monitored by members of "Earthcare" but they are not powerful enough to overcome male gangs. The situation requires a 24 hour armed guard.
Humans and wildlife are incompatible.