23 October 2019

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Island a path away from extinction Stephen Taylor steve@mpnews.com.au

ISLAND homes are providing safe homes for threatened eastern barred bandicoots. Picture: Zoos Victoria

DECADES of conservation work have culminated in the release of around 50 eastern barred bandicoots on French Island. The bandicoots came from captive breeding programs as well as from Churchill and Phillip islands and Hamilton in western Victoria to begin their new life in Western Port. Threatened species biologists and other members of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team have been working with French Island residents for more than a decade to prepare for the moment. “It’s been a long road to get to this stage, but to see the bandicoots racing into their new home [on Friday 11 October] has been an incredible result for all involved,” Zoos Victoria threatened species biologist Dr Amy Coetsee said. “This is by far the most challenging release we’ve ever done and the most rewarding thanks to the support of French Island residents who care deeply about their island home and have welcomed the eastern barred bandicoots into this fox-free environment. “The bandicoots have travelled by boat from four different locations across the state and now have the space to increase their population and help save their species from extinction.” The native Victorian mammal once widespread across the grassy woodlands of southwest Victoria was close to extinction after extensive habitat destruction and the ravages of foxes and cats. Zoos Victoria has been managing the

captive breeding program for eastern barred bandicoots since 1991, with more than 950 born at Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and partner organisations during that time. But working out how to breed successfully in captivity has always only been one part of the mission. The goal has always been to return the marsupials to the wild. Fox-free islands are seen as the best chance of re-establishing wild populations, even though bandicoot had never been found on Victorian islands. A trial release was arranged by Phillip Island Nature Parks on the 57-hectare Churchill Island in 2015, after ridding it of foxes and feral cats. That release showed that the bandicoots could live and breed well on islands. It also showed how bandicoots improve the environment through soil turnover and soil health by foraging for worms and beetle grubs with their long snouts. The success of that project, and a declaration that Phillip Island was also fox-free, paved the way for a larger release onto the Summerland peninsula in 2017. Phillip Island Nature Parks’ deputy director of research Dr Duncan Sutherland said: “The captive breeding program, the previous releases onto Churchill and Phillip islands, and now this latest release onto French Island, have provided a form of insurance for the survival of this critically endangered native animal. “The growing populations have demonstrated that eastern barred bandicoots can successfully establish in island environments, while also having positive environmental effects, including reduced soil compaction and improved nutrient and water infiltration.”

Healthy expo OSBORNE Primary School’s Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Expo will be held at the school, 120 Craigie Road, Mt Martha, 5-7pm, Thursday 24 October. The expo will showcase lots of activities to promote a healthy body and healthy mind as they both contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Teachers will run activities, such as dancing, yoga, seven-minute workouts, skipping and elastics, mindfulness, puzzles, and calming strategies. The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden will be open. Other activities include a mini boot camp and Milo Cricket. The coach of the Osborne United basketball team will run basketball drills. The school’s Inclusive Garden will be opened. A cake stall will sell healthy items. Entry is a gold coin donation

Surfing memories WAVES that were ridden, missed or carefully avoided will be freely discussed at the Point Leo Vintage Surf Day, Sunday 27 October. Surf equipment and memorabilia can be swapped along with the exchange of memories. The day starts at 10am on the foreshore ($4 entry fee, $30 for stands) with displays of vintage surfboards, Kombis (and other surf wagons), hot rods and a swap meet. Food and drink available. Vintage Surf Days were previously held at Pointleo in 2014 and 2017. Proceeds from the day go to the Disabled Surfers Association Mornington Peninsula. Details: Rod Jones 0438 458 064.

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23 October 2019

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