The 12 conservation wins of Christmas

It will come as no surprise that 2020 wasn’t the easiest year for conservationists, with unprecedented bushfires, soaring temperatures, drought, flood and a health pandemic all impacting our work.

The bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is presumed extinct in NSW

While natural disasters have undoubtedly added new challenges, it hasn’t stopped our Saving our Species (SoS) team from working tirelessly to secure a future for our threatened plants and animals.

In the spirit of spreading cheer at this time of year, we wanted to end 2020 on a high, with a round-up of 12 of the many conservation wins that SoS – alongside our valued partners – achieved in 2020.

  1. Regent honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia)Endangered regent honeyeaters soar

    In June, the wild population of one of Australia’s most endangered birds was bolstered, with 20 conservation-bred regent honeyeaters released into the wild in NSW, as part of an Australia-wide recovery effort. Regent honeyeater numbers are at critical levels, with only about 350 birds remaining. The honeyeaters were released onto private property in the Lower Hunter, where it’s hoped they will mix with the wild population and breed.

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  3. Mountain pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) after the Kosciuszko firesFeeding our mountain pygmy-possums

    Saving our Species and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff took the unprecedented measure of providing supplementary food and water for the endangered mountain pygmy-possum in January, after bushfires in the area put the possum’s survival at even greater risk.

    Cameras showed many pygmy-possums and other species visiting the water stations and 61 feeding stations set up by the team, including the dusty antechinus, mountain brush-tailed possum and native bush rats.

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  5. Green and Golden Bell Frog, Litoria aurea Green and golden bell frogs survive bushfires

    90 green and golden bell frogs were found alive and well by SoS officers in wetlands south of Nowra and around Bawley Point, following the summer's bushfires in the Shoalhaven region. Green and golden bell frog breeding was also recorded, with tadpoles found at wetlands around Bawley Point following the large rainfall events in February, giving us hope that frog populations will continue to persist in this region.

    For the first time, green and golden bell frogs were also located in a constructed wetland built especially for the frog in Worrigee Nature Reserve by NPWS in 2018.

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  7. Gordon's Wattle (Acacia gordonii) from the Mimosoideae family. Threatened species.Endangered wattle burnt by bushfire bursts back to life

    Post-fire monitoring of the endangered Gordon's wattle (Acacia gordonii) found that half of the shrubs had been lost at our main conservation site near Bilpin but – with this native shrub needing intense heat and fire to crack open its very hard seed pods – our experts remained cautiously hopeful.

    The team returned to survey the site in August to find a 400% increase in the number of Gordon’s wattle plants at this site, with the intense fires and subsequent rains creating the perfect conditions for this wattle to bounce back.

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  9. Smoky mouse (Pseudomys fumeus)Smoky mouse defies the odds

    The critically endangered smoky mouse survived the massive Dunns Road fire early in 2020. 58 motion-sensing cameras set up in burnt, semi burnt and unburnt areas of Kosciuszko National Park recorded more than 40,000 images – including smoky mouse survivors – in just 5 weeks. Threatened species experts analysing the images spotted smoky mice at 7 burnt sites.

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  11. Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) hatchlings, one hour oldHundreds of baby sea turtles hatch on NSW beaches

    More than 200 baby sea turtles safely found their way to the ocean as this year’s NSW sea turtle nesting season ended. Seven nests were found on NSW beaches from Tweed to Sydney’s Northern Beaches between November 2019 and May 2020, a significant increase on last year’s numbers. The monitoring was completed as part of NSW TurtleWatch, a program developed by Australian Seabird Rescue and supported by SoS and Marine Estate Management Strategy.

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  13. Brush-tailed rock-wallaby (Petrogale penicillata) in mid leapWallaby colony survives bushfires in Kangaroo Valley

    Monitoring cameras and GPS collars confirmed the entire colony of brush-tailed rock-wallabies in Kangaroo Valley survived the 2019-20 bushfires which devastated the region, with the support of emergency food drops.

    The life-saving food included carrots and sweet potatoes, dropped by Saving our Species and NPWS, to help this significant colony survive. Expert assessment showed the wallabies were in good health, with one wallaby identified as a joey that was not previously known.

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  15. Manning River helmeted turtle (Myuchelys purvisi)Manning River turtles hatch in captivity

    On World Turtle Day in May 2020, Saving our Species announced that 20 Manning River turtle eggs successfully hatched in captivity, after eggs were rescued from the wild earlier in the year. We are working with the Australian Reptile Park and Aussie Ark to create an insurance population to ensure the turtles will soon thrive in the wild.

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  17. Little tern (Sterna albifrons) with chicksSouth Coast beach-nesting bird hatching boom despite bushfires

    Critically endangered little terns, hooded plovers and pied oystercatchers fledged chicks in February at nesting sites along the NSW South Coast, despite bushfires and beach visitors. These results show the shorebirds' resilience, with the help of the determined efforts of the SoS South Coast Shorebird Recovery Program, which is a collaboration between Saving our Species, NPWS, local community groups and over 100 volunteers.

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  19. Merimbula star-hair (Astrotricha wallagaraugh) in flower with pollinatorMerimbula star-hair shines bright after fire

    Post-fire monitoring revealed resilient bush ecosystems are springing back to life, with rare and threatened plants such as the Merimbula star-hair – a threatened native plant found in only a couple of locations – recovering in south east NSW following the devastating bushfires.

    Saving our Species identified that more than 15 of south eastern NSW’s most threatened plants re-sprouted or germinated from seeds, with evidence of burnt plants surviving the intense fires and hundreds of new plants emerging after recent rains.

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  21. Missy the orchid sniffing detection dogDetection dogs track down rare orchid

    Two English springer spaniels helped find a very rare underground orchid called Rhizanthella, first discovered in 2016. The dogs were brought in by SoS and NPWS, after staff spent fruitless days searching for new orchid populations.

    This was the first-time detection dogs were used to find underground orchids, and it was a resounding success. On top of both dogs locating the orchids in the known location, they may have also found the orchids growing in a new location.

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  23. Bilby (Macrotis lagotis)Bilbies are breeding in NSW

    Bilbies are breeding at Mallee Cliffs National Park and Pilliga State Conservation Area in NSW for the first time in a century, as part of a ground-breaking program which is bringing back locally extinct species. As the first generation of bilby babies conceived and born on site at these parks in more than a century, they represent a major milestone in this scheme.

    This project is a partnership between NPWS, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and the University of NSW and is a significant component of SoS.

Find out how Saving our Species is working to secure a future for plants and animals in NSW.