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Protecting the Vulnerable White-throated Grasswren in Kakadu National Park

Blog Post - Protecting the Vulnerable White-throated Grasswren in Kakadu National Park

Wildfires can be very beneficial to Australian landscapes, clearing weeds and breaking open seedpods of trees that only revegetate after fire. But fires can also have devastating effects on wildlife that cannot escape and some populations can be severely depleted by bushfires.

The White-throated Grasswren was once abundant in Kakadu National Park but declining numbers due to feral animals and habitat loss has placed them on the Vulnerable Species list. It is a small ground-dwelling bird living in remote areas that can be difficult to spot and there has been increasing concern for their survival in Kakadu.

FNPW has helped fund a fire-management project to reduce the risk of bushfires further destroying grasswren habitat in the stone country of Kakadu National Park. Traditional owners and Indigenous rangers carried out bushwalking burning using traditional knowledge to protect fragile habitat. This early targeted burning aims to prevent the very hot late season bushfires that have significantly damaged wildlife habitat over the last few years and will give native animals including the grasswren a chance to recover.

The project also included grasswren surveys to establish their current numbers and where best to direct fire management activities to protect them. The rocky and difficult terrain that is the preferred habitat of the grasswren presented a challenge to the survey group which included bird experts to identify the calls of the wrens who could not always be seen.

Traditional owners were involved in each aspect of the program, using their local knowledge to create a firebreak around stone country grasswren habitat,help carry out strategic controlled burning to reduce the risk of wildfire and search for grasswrens. Eleven grasswrens were sighted, including 2 pairs in a location previously unknown for sightings.

The engagement of the local community and success of the project have led to future bushwalks scheduled to continue monitoring the fire risk and assess ongoing grasswren numbers. The project has had wider benefits, protecting many fragile flora species and native animals that live alongside the grasswrens and are equally impacted by uncontrolled wildfires.

 

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