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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

National Recovery Plan for Malleefowl

Joe Benshemesh
Environment Australia, October 2000
ISBN 0759010072

Note: This publication has been superseded by the National recovery plan for Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) - 2007

RECOVERY ACTIONS

The following actions are presented in three sections regarding A) general management, B) obtaining information, and C) involving interested people and groups. Within each section the highest priority objectives and actions are presented first with due regard to the severity of the threats addressed and the likely national benefits to Malleefowl conservation.

A) SECURING EXISTING POPULATIONS

Improving the management of Crown and leasehold public land is the most crucial factor in improving the conservation status of Malleefowl. The species also occurs on private land where sympathetic management will increasingly benefit its conservation. Actions are grouped under common objectives and are briefly discussed, but methods and costs are not detailed as priority sites across Australia have yet to be determined. Providing the information that is needed for planning site-specific management is dealt with in Action 9.1.

Objective 1: Reduce permanent habitat loss

Action 1.1 Retain areas that support Malleefowl, and those that support Malleefowl habitat, and protect them from clearing.

Justification

Clearing causes permanent loss of Malleefowl habitat and has been the major factor in the decline of Malleefowl in agricultural areas. Clearing often continues in a piecemeal fashion and is a concern in all States, especially in south-west New South Wales where substantial clearing is a possibility in the near future (Department of Land and Water Conservation 1997).

Method

Native vegetation clearance controls exist in most states (see Appendix III) and often specifically protect habitats that harbour threatened species such as Malleefowl. However, sites that are important for Malleefowl will often need to be identified before they are protected under these initiatives (see Actions 8.1 and 10.1). Important sites for the conservation of Malleefowl include areas in which the species is resident and also those areas that form dispersal corridors between populations.

Action 1.2 Encourage landholders to enter into conservation covenants and similar agreements.

Justification

Clearing causes permanent loss of Malleefowl habitat and has been the major factor in the decline of Malleefowl in agricultural areas. Management agreements between landholders and contracting organisations provide an opportunity for partnership and cooperation in conserving remnant Malleefowl habitat. In particular, statutory covenants can prescribe positive management as well as providing protection in perpetuity against deleterious activities such as clearing and grazing.

Method

Landholders should be encouraged by governments and local conservation groups to enter into management agreements for land that is important for Malleefowl. Programs in most states provide for statutory covenants that are binding in perpetuity (see Appendix III), and these are often associated with incentives for landholders.

Some programs involving leaseholds allow for the clearing of some habitats in exchange for improved conservation management of other areas (eg. Department of Land and Water Conservation 1997). Such programs will be most beneficial to Malleefowl and other species where a regional approach to conservation is adopted, rather than a property-by-property approach which may result in accelerated fragmentation of Malleefowl populations and habitat. In general, the importance of a property for Malleefowl conservation should be assessed with regard to not only the occurrence of the species, but also in regard to the value of the property as a habitat link for dispersing Malleefowl and the conservation status of surrounding areas (see Action 8.1). Similarly, the effect of clearing areas for agriculture should be assessed with due regard to the how this may indirectly affect nearby Malleefowl populations in terms of favouring some predators and competitors of Malleefowl.

Landholders who undertake management agreements on their property should also be recognised for their contribution to Malleefowl conservation. Suitable forms of recognition might include publicising the value of such protected remnants in Malleefowl newsletters and local media (see Actions 17.1, 18.1), connecting the landholder to the network of Malleefowl conservation groups, and sending Malleefowl newsletters to those who undertake agreements that protect Malleefowl.

Related actions: 8.1, 10.1, 17.1, 18.1.

Action 1.3 Support initiatives that reduce further salinisation.

Justification

Salinisation of the land threatens some Malleefowl habitats where they are close to cleared land, especially in WA and south-east SA. This is one of the most insidious environmental problems facing dryland agriculture in southern Australia and reducing salinity will benefit Malleefowl as well as the economic and social viability of rural landscapes.

Method

Increased salinity is mostly caused by a rising watertable due to excessive clearing. In high-risk areas, the watertable can be stabilised by preserving and planting native- vegetation that is perennial and deep-rooted. In general, commercial crops of trees, shrubs and other perennial crops should be encouraged in preference to annual crops and pasture. Establishing corridors of native vegetation will also help reduce salinity (see Action 5.1).

Related Actions: 5.1, 8.1, 10.1, and 18.1.

Objective 2: Reduce grazing pressure where Malleefowl conservation is a priority

General Comments

Action 2.1Remove goats and sheep from conservation reserves, or keep them at low numbers.

Justification

The severe effect of sheep grazing on Malleefowl abundance has been documented, and the effect of goats is likely to be similar if not worse. These introduced herbivores should thus be removed from Malleefowl habitats where the conservation of the species is a priority.

Methods

Useful techniques to reduce feral goat numbers include closing off or limiting access to artificial watering points, harvesting, and culling.

Action 2.2 Close or fence artificial sources of water in conservation reserves.

Justification

High grazing pressure has a deleterious effect on Malleefowl abundance. In many large conservation reserves, artificial sources of water provide critical access to water during the summer and this has resulted in much higher numbers of goats, sheep and kangaroos than would otherwise be the case. Consequently, the total grazing pressure in areas with artificial water is likely to be high, and may remain high even after culling programs.

Methods

Artificial water sources, such as old dams, should be levelled so that they do not hold water, or fenced to deny access by goats and other herbivores where these animals may be harming Malleefowl habitat.

Action 2.3 Erect adequate fencing to protect Malleefowl habitat.

Justification

Adequate fencing is required to prevent incursions by domestic stock and goats where this occurs, and to prevent these animals from dispersing into and becoming resident in Malleefowl habitats. Edges of habitat remnants and habitat corridors are especially prone to damage from stock as high densities of sheltering animals graze and trample native vegetation.

Methods

Fence types vary and are designed to exclude different animals. Basic stock fencing is effective against sheep and cattle and costs about $1200 per kilometre in materials. Fences designed to exclude goats or rabbits are considerably more expensive. Various government programs across Australia provide financial assistance for fencing remnant native vegetation (see Appendix III).

Action 2.4 Reduce rabbit numbers where they are abundant in or near Malleefowl habitat.

Justification

Rabbits are common in some Malleefowl habitats, and are often very common near the boundary of remnant habitat and cleared land. Rabbits are likely to compete with Malleefowl for food, provide a relatively stable food source that supports high fox numbers, and cause long-term habitat degradation.

Methods

Useful techniques to locally reduce rabbit numbers include 1080 baiting, myxomatosis and rabbit calicivirus disease, shooting, and gassing and ripping their warrens. Rabbit control should be integrated with fox control (Action 4.2) to prevent foxes from switching prey to Malleefowl when rabbit numbers are suddenly reduced.

Related Actions: 4.2

Action 2.5 Inform graziers of the damaging effects of grazing on Malleefowl habitat.

Justification

Grazing by sheep has been shown to have a severe effect on Malleefowl abundance. Most of such grazing is from domestic stock and many graziers are unaware of its effects on Malleefowl.

Methods

Information on the effects of grazing and on managing Malleefowl habitat should be distributed widely (see Action 18.1) and displayed at field days, fairs, rural community centres and zoos. In particular, graziers should be informed of the negative effects of allowing sheep, goats or cattle to feed or trample Malleefowl habitat, especially during drought and after fire when the vegetation is most vulnerable.

Objective 3: Reduce fire threats

General Comment

Action 3.1 Reduce the occurrence of large fires, and promote patchiness of fires, where Malleefowl conservation is a priority in large reserves.

Justification

Large fires are highly destructive of Malleefowl populations and diminish the suitability of habitat for Malleefowl thereafter for at least 30 years. Over the last few decades, large fires have devastated Malleefowl populations and there is an urgent need to prevent their recurrence.

Methods

Fire management plans should be drafted and implemented for all large reserves and focus on strategic ways of limiting the spread of large fires and promoting more patchy burns when wildfire occurs. Fire exclusion from large reserves is not feasible. Areas that are most important for Malleefowl should be identified (Action 10.1) and strategies should be developed in fire management plans for protecting these in particular. Fire management requires considerable planning and may require habitat modifications (eg installing effective firebreaks, patch burns etc.). Control burns may be useful in some habitats to interrupt fuel continuity and to establish linear firebreaks, but the risk of fire escape should also be acknowledged and considered when choosing a method of protecting areas of special significance.

Action 3.2 Provide for access and protection of small habitat remnants to prevent fire spreading to or from surrounding land.

Justification

Small (<5,000 ha) habitat remnants are subject to different risks from fire than are large reserves. Small remnants typically contain older habitat than large reserves and thus appear to burn less frequently, but they are at a high risk of being completely consumed should a fire occur. Fire in small and isolated remnants is thus more likely to cause local extinction of Malleefowl.

Method

Fire management plans should be drafted and implemented for small reserves that harbour Malleefowl. Extensive fire protection works such as wide firebreaks may significantly compromise the integrity of small reserves. This should be taken into account in planning fire protection for small reserves, and weighed against the regional significance of losing a local population in a small reserve in the event of fire.

Action 3.3 Encourage traditional burning practices by Aborigines in Central Australia.

Justification

Traditional patch burning disrupts the continuity of fuels, thereby reducing the risk of large fires, and may also benefit Malleefowl by stimulating regeneration episodes in spinifex habitats in which the birds feed.

Methods

Aboriginal people should be encouraged to conduct traditional burning where this does not threaten dense mulga habitats or Malleefowl nests. Commonwealth programs provide funds to employ Aboriginal owners to undertake traditional fire management. Fires should be mapped and their effect on Malleefowl habitats and on Malleefowl persistence in an area should be monitored.

Action 3.4 Discourage broad-scale burning for agricultural purposes in areas that harbour Malleefowl.

Justification

In some areas, such as western NSW, broad- scale fire is used to promote forage production for stock. This is likely to be highly destructive of Malleefowl populations and to diminish the suitability of habitat for Malleefowl for at least 30 years thereafter.

Methods

Information on the damaging effects of broad-scale burning on Malleefowl should be distributed widely (see Action 18.1) and displayed at field days, fairs, and rural community centres in regions where such burning is practised.

Objective 4: Reduce predation

Foxes are efficient predators of Malleefowl and reducing fox numbers is likely to benefit the birds. This is especially the case in small reserves and near the edges of large reserves, but applies in all habitats and landscape configurations.

Action 4.1 Record and centralise details of fox control in or near areas where there are estimates of Malleefowl abundance.

Justification

It is still unclear how important fox predation is in determining Malleefowl abundance, or how effective various levels of fox control are at increasing Malleefowl populations or reversing declines. Fox control is conducted across Australia by various public and private land managers and for a variety of purposes, and even where details are recorded these are often difficult to locate. Ensuring that adequate details of fox control are recorded, and centralising these records, will provide valuable information for assessing the effectiveness of fox control in benefiting Malleefowl. This is especially important in or near areas where there are measures of Malleefowl abundance.

Method

The need to record and centralise fox control details in areas where Malleefowl occur should be widely publicised through government agencies and the community network (see Action 18.1) and displayed at field days, fairs, and rural community centres. Relevant details include the method, intensity and frequency of fox control, and the results in terms of fox abundance. In conjunction with fox control, Malleefowl breeding density and/or the frequency of Malleefowl sightings should also be recorded so that benefit to the birds can be assessed. A summary of these fox control and Malleefowl data should be centralised on the Malleefowl monitoring database (see Action 9.4).

Related Actions: 9.3, 9.4 and 18.1.

Action 4.2 Reduce fox and rabbit numbers in small and isolated habitat remnants.

Justification

Malleefowl are especially vulnerable in small and isolated habitat remnants and the effects of predation by foxes are likely to be amplified by proximity to agricultural land and the restricted opportunities for immigration and emigration by the birds. Reducing fox numbers is likely to benefit the birds.

Method

Control of foxes and rabbits should be integrated in Malleefowl areas to reduce predation on Malleefowl and prevent a build up of rabbits. In general, rabbits should be poisoned before foxes as poisoned rabbits may cause significant secondary poisoning of foxes and make further fox control more effective. Fox control is most effective when the target area and surrounding areas are baited simultaneously to inhibit reinvasion. 1080 baits are commonly used for fox baiting and usually cost from 60 to 90 cents each, although preferred baits and methods of delivery vary with location.

Related Actions: 4.1, 9.3, and 18.1.

Action 4.3 Reduce fox numbers in large areas of native habitat where Malleefowl densities have declined and fox predation is the best explanation for such declines.

Justification

Excessive predation by foxes is a serious threat to Malleefowl in some areas and may lead to declines in Malleefowl abundance, especially following severe reductions in rabbit populations or other staple foods of foxes. While there is some uncertainty regarding the threat imposed by foxes and the effectiveness of fox control at increasing Malleefowl populations or reversing declines, widespread fox control is recommended as a precautionary measure where Malleefowl densities have declined and fox predation is a likely explanation for such declines.

Method

Fox control in large areas of native habitat is often difficult to achieve on the ground due to limited vehicular access. In WA and NSW, widespread fox control is achieved by 1080 aerial baiting and techniques have been developed that provide an effective and efficient kill of foxes with a reduced risk of off-target mortalities. In WA, such aerial baiting is conducted four times a year over large areas and costs about $25/km2/year (R Armstrong pers. comm.). The abundance of Malleefowl should be monitored where widespread baiting is conducted and at similar unbaited areas so that benefits to Malleefowl can be assessed (Action 9.2, 9.3).

In Central Australia, baiting for foxes in and around Malleefowl sites is only recommended where they are more common than dingoes. The relative abundance of foxes and dingoes is usually simple to deduce by the frequency of these animals' tracks. Foxes appear to be suppressed by dingoes and are likely to pose a much greater threat to Malleefowl. However, conventional fox baiting is also effective at killing dingoes and may be counterproductive to Malleefowl conservation if an absence of dingoes allows foxes to reinvade the area. Also, 1080 baiting is ineffective against cats and in arid areas these predators often increase substantially in numbers after the abundance of larger carnivores is reduced.

Objective 5: Reduce isolation of fragmented populations

Action 5.1 Maintain or plant corridors of native vegetation to connect patches of habitat that are suitable for Malleefowl.

Justification

The future for Malleefowl in small and isolated reserves is grim. Population sizes are typically very small, often numbering just a few birds, and remnant patches of habitat are often surrounded by cleared land that is a hostile environment for Malleefowl to traverse or survive in. Corridors of native vegetation that link remnants may greatly benefit Malleefowl and enable populations to persist much longer by facilitating movement of animals between habitat patches. While there are few data from which to deduce the effectiveness of such corridors for Malleefowl, or what their attributes should be, there is evidence that Malleefowl use even narrow roadside strips of native vegetation in preference to crossing open ground.

Method

In general, corridors should comprise both trees and shrubs to provide Malleefowl with overhead and horizontal cover and be fenced to exclude grazing by stock. The vulnerability of Malleefowl to predators and traffic is likely to increase with decreasing corridor width and with the amount of time needed to travel along its length. Accordingly, corridors should be as wide and as short as possible and always connect remnants, never leading from a remnant to nowhere in particular. Such dead-end corridors may lead Malleefowl into areas in which they become increasingly vulnerable. Also, favoured food plants (such as acacias) should be no more common along narrow corridors than in the habitats they connect. This will reduce the risk of birds regularly feeding in corridors where they may be especially vulnerable. Planning will operate at a regional level and aim at establishing networks of interconnected patches (see Action 8).

Related Actions: 2.3 and 8.1.

Objective 6: Promote Malleefowl- friendly agricultural practices

Action 6.1 Encourage farmers with cropland surrounding small remnants of Malleefowl habitat to cooperatively ensure that some grain is grown every year.

Justification

Malleefowl often feed out from the edges of their habitat on fallen grain and green-pick, and in some areas may depend on these food sources. However, in many areas the ground is fallowed and crops are not grown every year. Malleefowl in habitat remnants that neighbour separate crops would probably benefit if some accessible crops were grown each year and provided a more regular supply of grain. This might be achieved by ensuring that not all cropland surrounding a habitat remnant was fallow at the same time, and would not necessarily require extra work for farmers.

Method

Information on the likely benefit to Malleefowl of asynchronous fallowing should be displayed at field days, fairs, and rural community centres, along with other information on how to benefit the species (see Action 18.1).

Objective 7: Reduce road loss

General Comment

Action 7.1 Minimise the amount of grain spilt during transport through areas that harbour Malleefowl.

Justification

Malleefowl are often killed on roads where they frequently feed on spilt grain. In some cases, such mortality may be substantial and damaging to a small population. For example, during one year thirteen Malleefowl were killed along a two-kilometre stretch of road in Western Australia (G McNeil pers. comm.).

Method

Grain transporters should be encouraged to minimise the amount of grain spilt as they travel through areas that support Malleefowl. Motorists in general should also be made aware of the problem and that Malleefowl, a threatened species, usually do not flee when approached by traffic. Information on the negative effects on Malleefowl of grain spilt on roads should be distributed widely and displayed at field days, fairs, and rural community centres (see Action 18.1).

Action 7.2 Erect signs to warn drivers where Malleefowl may be on the road ahead.

Justification

Malleefowl are often hit by traffic on roads. Motorists should be alerted to this possibility and made aware that Malleefowl, a threatened species, usually do not flee when approached by traffic.

Method

In areas where Malleefowl are often seen on roads, signs should be erected alerting motorists of the possibility that Malleefowl may be on the road ahead.

B) OBTAINING INFORMATION NEEDED FOR MANAGEMENT

The following actions involve the collection of information and are presented in detail to promote a collaborative and standardised national approach. This information is needed both to assist in planning management actions, and to evaluate the success or otherwise of management actions used to various degrees across Australia.

Objective 8: Provide information for regional planning

Action 8.1 Prepare regional conservation plans for Malleefowl.

Specific Aim

Prepare regional conservation plans for Malleefowl that collate existing information needed for conservation planning, identify key areas for conservation, summarise likely threats relevant to each site where Malleefowl occur, and propose site-specific measures to secure the species in the long- term.

Justification

A site-specific approach to Malleefowl conservation and population management is required, but is beyond the scope of this National Recovery Plan. To be most effective, site-specific management actions should be developed from a regional perspective of Malleefowl conservation and land management. The current action will provide this perspective by examining the past and current distribution and abundance of the species, detailing the availability and general condition of remaining habitat, and evaluating opportunities to mitigate local threats with appropriate management. This information will be used to plan site-specific management strategies in each State.

The regional conservation plans will also facilitate a regional approach to land use assessments that are currently made on a property-by-property basis (e.g. the Property Development Agreements in NSW).

Methods

Four broad geographic regions are suggested based on the major discontinuities in the range of Malleefowl across Australia (see Appendix II).

  1. Western Australia (west of Kalgoorlie),
  2. Central Australia (WA Goldfields and south-eastern coast, NT, and western SA from the Eyre Peninsula to the NT and WA borders),
  3. South-eastern Australia - Yorke Peninsula and Murray Mallee (south-east SA, south west NSW, Vic), and
  4. Central NSW (east of the 144th Longitude).

Within each of these regions the threats to Malleefowl populations may be expected to be similar, and although populations have been fragmented there is some potential of ameliorating this with appropriate management. This regionalisation provides a framework for planning, but other regionalisations based on boundaries of States, catchments or bioregions might be more politically workable. In such cases, local plans will nonetheless consider information from neighbouring areas within the regions outlined above.

Existing GIS data, satellite imagery, and aerial photography will be used to compile maps of the vicinity of known and suspected Malleefowl sites showing:

These maps, together with information on past distribution (Appendix II) and the results from Objective 10 (Current Distribution), will form the basis of each conservation plan. Malleefowl population size in each discreet patch will be estimated from knowledge gained in Objective 9 (Monitoring) and Objective 10 (Current Distribution) and sites of greatest significance for Malleefowl conservation will be identified. The regional plans will consider on a site-by-site basis where and how resources should best be directed to secure self-sustaining populations with appropriate habitat management and control of introduced herbivores and predators. Finally, this work will briefly detail, prioritise and cost measures urgently required to secure the species within each region in the long-term. In particular, the plans will examine the need and feasibility of producing networks of interconnected patches in specific areas and consider the need to restock areas with Malleefowl.

Costs

Compiling each conservation plan is likely to involve ten to twenty weeks work. This work should follow the establishment of monitoring sites (Objective 9) and surveys of the distribution of the species (Objective 10).

State and National cost summary ($000s)

Year

1

2

3

Thereafter

Total

Western Australia

0

0

15.0

0

15.0

Central Australia

0

0

12.0

0

12.0

South-east

0

0

8.0

0

8.0

Central NSW

0

0

8.0

0

8.0

National Total

0

0

43.0

0

43.0

Objective 9: Monitor trends in Malleefowl abundance and measuring threat

Action 9.1 Establish a further 24 monitoring sites (10 in WA, 4 on Eyre Peninsula in SA, and 10 in NSW) in a representative range of habitat types and landscape contexts across the species' range.

Justification

Knowledge of the stability of Malleefowl populations is fundamental to their conservation across Australia. Monitoring grids are the most cost-effective way of collecting these data as only one person is required, and because the establishment of grids and the monitoring is suited to community involvement. The results of these searches will provide benchmark estimates of Malleefowl abundance for future reference and a selection of these sites will form the basis for subsequent monitoring of Malleefowl populations (Action 9.2). These sites may also be used for studies on the population dynamics of Malleefowl (Actions 11.2 and 11.3) and to assess the effectiveness of predator control in increasing Malleefowl populations.

Methods

Sites will be representative of habitats occupied by Malleefowl and will be chosen in regard to community interest and where Malleefowl abundance is thought to be at least 0.5 breeding pairs per km2. Where densities are lower than this (one active nest per 2 km2) complete searches of the habitat may not be the most effective means of monitoring the population and other methods should be considered. The methods used to establish permanent sites, to search these and to describe the locations of nests will follow those outlined by Benshemesh (1997b). Grids can be established at any time of the year, and should be large enough to provide a sample of the population density (400 ha is a convenient and effective grid size for most areas). The grids will be permanently marked and community groups, Green Corps or the ATCV will conduct the searches under the guidance of the Recovery Team and local wildlife authorities. There is an advantage in searching areas for nests during the breeding season (spring and early summer) when counts of active nests can also be obtained. However, summer should be avoided because of the likelihood of hot weather and the associated risk to the safety of people involved.

This action will benefit from widespread community participation and this will be encouraged provided the integrity of the ensuing data is not compromised. Involving the community in site selection and searching for mounds will raise public awareness and increase the likelihood of community ownership and the long-term success of the monitoring program.

Criteria for success

Costs

The following cost estimates are based on the use of voluntary labour through the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers for one week per site. This group has been successfully employed for this purpose in several States.

Savings might be possible by involving Green Corps, local community groups, natural history groups, and tertiary students to establish the grids. Searching grids requires skills and teamwork that typically take a group several days to develop. For this reason, the work is particularly suited to groups such as Green Corps that spend several weeks on a project.

While substantial savings may be achieved by involving community groups (including ATCV and Green Corps), it should be noted that supervision and training of these groups is usually required to ensure quality of the work and the resulting data. Quality work is especially important for this action because marking a grid and searching the area provides the framework for all subsequent monitoring, and determines the efficiency with which subsequent work can be completed. Accordingly, the following costs include supervision for 25% of the time a group spends in the field. The supervisor should also be responsible for reporting the results.

Itemised costs per grid ($000s)

ATCV costs (12 volunteers)

2.0

Supervision

0.5

Equipment (markers, wire, rain-gauge)

0.3

TOTAL

2.8

State and National cost summary ($000s)

Year

1

Thereafter

Total

NSW (10 grids)

28.0

-

28.0

WA (10 grids)

28.0

-

28.0

SA (4 grids)

11.2

-

11.2

Total (24 grids)

67.2

-

67.2

Comments

Action 9.2 Monitor Malleefowl breeding numbers at a minimum of ten sites in each state each year.

Justification

Data on the stability of Malleefowl populations is fundamental for conservation. The monitoring project will show where declines are occurring, and how rapidly they are proceeding, and as such will provide key performance criteria for the Recovery Plan.

Methods

Monitoring sites will include a sample of habitats and landscape configurations that are deemed representative for the Malleefowl populations in each State. Every known Malleefowl mound within each monitoring site will be visited annually to determine whether it is being used for breeding. Sites will be about 400 ha in size and permanently marked as grids to facilitate navigation and re-location of mounds. Experience in Victoria and South Australia suggests that one to three person-days per site is usually adequate to visit all mounds. Data collection and reporting will be standardised across the states and modelled on existing studies. An existing database and field manual will be used to facilitate all aspects of the monitoring, and if necessary these will be improved.

New nests built by the birds after the sites are established will usually not be known unless the site is searched again. New nests are not common, but it is nonetheless important that monitored sites be re-searched regularly so that any new nests can be added to the monitoring. Monitoring of previously- known nests provides a minimum estimate of the breeding numbers at a site, and this may be adequate for distinguishing sites at which a decline may have occurred from those where numbers have been stable or increasing. More accurate data than this requires regular re-searching of monitoring sites.

This action is suited to community participation and this will be encouraged. The Recovery Team will also facilitate and direct community groups to ensure a coherent national approach. In fact, it is unlikely that this action will succeed without community involvement, as regular monitoring and re- searches of sites may otherwise be prohibitively expensive. It is envisaged that community-based volunteers may eventually run the project under the guidance of the Recovery Team.

Rain gauges that are capable of collecting yearly rainfall will be stationed at every grid unless accurate rainfall data are already collected and available (eg from adjacent landholders). Rainfall has a major bearing on food availability and Malleefowl breeding density but is extremely variable in time and space in semi-arid and arid areas. These rainfall data will thus be important in interpreting changes in Malleefowl breeding densities.

All data will be centralised at Birds Australia so that the national database can be administered from a single source and made available for the Recovery Team. This will also facilitate a national perspective on the species' conservation. This central point for all records will act as a national archive, but access to these data will only be allowed with permission from the Recovery Team and those who provided the data.

Currently, there are 24 grids in Vic, 11 in SA, and 5 in WA that are monitored on a more or less regular basis. Further monitoring sites in WA, SA and NSW are recommended (see Action 9.1)

Criteria

By February each year, the monitoring data for each grid will be:

Costs

The cost of monitoring breeding numbers would be about $600 per site per year (salary for an average 3 person-days plus vehicle expenses), and at least 10 of these will be monitored in each state over a 5 year period.

The cost of re-searching a site is estimated here as $1000 and is based on the involvement of the ATCV for 3 days every 3 years.

A total of at least 40 sites is anticipated, 10 in each of the four States.

Annual monitoring costs per grid ($000s)

Salary*

0.50

Re-search* every 3 years ($1000)

0.33

Vehicle etc.

0.10

TOTAL

0.93

* Community volunteers could largely or entirely conduct this work.

State and National cost summary per year for 5 years ($000s)

Year

1#

2

3

4

5

Total

State Total (10 grids)

10.3

9.3

9.3

9.3

9.3

47.7

National Total (40 grids)

41.3

37.3

37.3

37.3

37.3

190.7

# Includes initial cost of $100 per grid for equipment (rain gauge, compass, etc.).

Action 9.3 Assess the benefit of effective fox control by 1080 baiting at two monitoring grids in each state over a period of five years and evaluate the benefits of this on Malleefowl breeding numbers.

Justification

It is still unclear how important fox predation is in determining Malleefowl abundance or how effective fox control is at increasing Malleefowl populations or reversing declines. This action will assess the benefit to Malleefowl of reducing fox abundance by thorough 1080 baiting in a controlled experiment, and will form an important component of monitoring (Action 9.2) and research into the population turnover of Malleefowl (Action 11.2 and 11.3).

Methods

A selection of sites that are regularly monitored (Action 9.2) will be baited for foxes, and each of these will be paired with another similar site that is not baited so the effects of baiting are evident amongst season fluctuations. These unbaited sites will provide an experimental control to assess the long-term benefits of such baiting regimes. Foxes will be reduced within a five-kilometre radius of the baited monitoring grid to provide an adequate buffer, and surrounding landholders will be encouraged to participate in this program. The relative abundance of foxes within the study sites will be assessed by bait-take as well as by systematically recording the frequency of fox signs on Malleefowl mounds (Action 9.2). Local wildlife authorities, the Recovery Team, and local community groups will determine the exact method of baiting.

Criteria

Costs

The cost of baiting varies with scale, frequency, and intensity. Here, baiting costs are estimated for an area of 110 km2 centred on each monitoring grid (includes five- kilometre buffer) that is baited four times a year at a density of 6 baits per km2. In WA, the cost of baiting is estimated as $0.65 each and $0.40 per bait for distribution (R Armstrong pers. comm.). Elsewhere baits are estimated as $0.85 each and the cost of distribution is estimated as $1.20 per bait to include tethering or burying where this is needed.

Data on the trends in Malleefowl abundance at both baited and unbaited grids will be provided by Action 9.2 and no further cost is anticipated.

Annual baiting costs per grid + buffer ($000s) WA Elsewhere

Salary*

1.00

3.20

Baits

1.70

2.30

Vehicle etc.

1.50

1.50

TOTAL

4.20

7.00

* Community volunteers could largely or entirely conduct this work.

State and National cost summary for baiting 2 sites in each state for 5 years ($000s)

Year

1

2

3

4

5

Total

WA

8.4

8.4

8.4

8.4

8.4

42.0

NSW

14.0

14.0

14.0

14.0

14.0

70.0

SA

14.0

14.0

14.0

14.0

14.0

70.0

VIC

14.0

14.0

14.0

14.0

14.0

70.0

National Total

50.4

50.4

50.4

50.4

50.4

252.0

Comment

Action 9.4 Facilitate and standardise monitoring by developing a manual and user-friendly database application.

Justification

In many areas the monitoring program relies on the efforts of local community groups to re-search grids and often also to conduct the monitoring. A database application can simplify the monitoring by making data entry fast and easy, managing these data, and printing forms, maps and summary reports. A database reduces errors, increases efficiency, and by automatically managing the data allows the community groups to play a more central role in the monitoring program. This would also facilitate standardisation of techniques and enable immediate comparisons of the data across Australia. Finally, by making the monitoring program more efficient, the interest and commitment of volunteers is more likely to be maintained.

Methods

A manual and database (an Access 2.0 application) are already in use in Victoria and South Australia. These have been developed by Parks Victoria and have been offered by that organisation as a basis for developing a standardised national approach (P Sandell, pers. comm.). The manual will be distributed to all groups involved in monitoring and opinions will be sought on whether this should be modified to facilitate their activities (see Action 17.1). The database will be modified for general use, provided with a user-friendly interface, and distributed to all groups who wish to use it. Forms will also be developed to record details of fox control (Action 4.1) and this information will be stored on the database.

Costs

Annual cost summary ($000s)

Year

1

2

3

4

5

Total

Modify database

5.0

0

0

0

0

5.0

Modify manual

1.0

0

0

0

0

1.0

Administer database

0.5

0.5

0.5

0.5

0.5

2.5

National Total

6.5

0.5

0.5

0.5

0.5

8.5

Objective 10: Determine the current distribution of Malleefowl

Action 10.1 Detail the distribution of Malleefowl in settled areas of all states by site inspections and postal surveys, and ascertain the degree of decline and fragmentation of remaining Malleefowl populations.

Justification

An understanding of the distribution and continuity of Malleefowl populations is crucial for effective management at a local, regional and national scale. However, the current distribution of Malleefowl is poorly known and relies for the most part on incidental sightings of the birds that are recorded in wildlife atlases in each State. A more systematic approach to recording the distribution of Malleefowl is required.

This action will provide distribution data for agricultural and mining areas as a result of postal surveys and active searches in areas where Malleefowl have previously been recorded and where it is conceivable that they may still exist. The primary outcome of this action will be a distribution map showing both positive and negative results from the postal and field surveys, and these will be related to maps of existing woody cover. These distribution maps will provide much needed information on the degree to which Malleefowl have declined in range and where conservation works should be directed. The distribution data will also provide a basis for regional management plans, especially for planning habitat corridors to reduce isolation of populations. The data will also form a benchmark from which to assess the conservation of Malleefowl in the future

Methods

These surveys will be conducted in WA, NSW, and on Eyre Peninsula (SA) where the current distribution of Malleefowl is not well known and where declines are suspected. In Vic and south-east SA, postal surveys are not needed as the distribution of Malleefowl is well known, whereas surveys are needed in the NT but postal surveys are unlikely to be successful due to the remoteness of potential sites.

Two methods are recommended for this action. Firstly, a brief questionnaire and sighting-form will be arranged and sent to landholders living in areas where Malleefowl may once have occurred (deduced from previous records, see Appendix II). Postal surveys have successfully been used to obtain such information for Malleefowl in NSW (Brickhill 1987b) and SA (Cutten 1997), and for other rare fauna (Mawson and Long 1995, Lunney et al. 1997), but require careful checking and validation. Post-outs will also include a form for future sightings, and these will form the basis for a Malleefowl-watch program run by the Threatened Species Network and modelled on existing programs. These postal-surveys will be conducted in WA, NSW, and on Eyre Peninsula (SA) where the current distribution of Malleefowl is not well known and where declines are suspected.

Secondly, biologists and birdwatchers will conduct active searches for Malleefowl footprints at selected sites in WA, NSW, and SA (Eyre Peninsula and south Olary Plains). In sandy areas, searching for Malleefowl footprints is a reliable and efficient method of detecting the presence of the species. Prints of Malleefowl are readily identified as they are distinctive and easily photographed, and they generally persist on the ground for days or weeks. Sites will be selected from areas where Malleefowl may have occurred in the past (as suggested by historical records, see Appendix II), where continuing declines are suspected, and where the substrate is sandy and loose (as is mostly the case in Malleefowl habitat). A standard method will be followed at each site and observers will record the frequency at which footprints are encountered, whether these were from single or paired birds, the location and distance searched, and the number of days since rain or strong winds.

Mapping of available habitat will be achieved using existing GIS maps and satellite imagery. Malleefowl distribution will be mapped and related to clearing history, fire history, major types of land tenure (freehold, leasehold, reserves and uncommitted), patch size and landscape connectivity. Results will be stored by the Recovery Team on a database and made freely available for research.

While biologists would be best to conduct these searches and report on the results, the data collection phase of this project would also be suitable for volunteers. In this regard, Birds Australia is conducting a new national bird atlas project involving thousands of birdwatchers across Australia (Ambrose 1998). Birds Australia is exploring the possibility of accepting Malleefowl footprints as legitimate sightings, and of inviting atlas volunteers to conduct simple and standardised searches for Malleefowl prints (Geoff Barrettpers. comm.). The Recovery Team will encourage this involvement, assist Birds Australia to plan and conduct such surveys, and provide expertise for collecting and verifying photographic evidence.

Criteria

Postal Surveys will be considered successful if:

Active searches will be considered successful if:

Costs

The cost of this project involves material and postage costs (approx. $1 per send-out) and the cost of a part-time project officer in each region. For each of the three regions for which these data are most needed, postal surveys would require about 6 months part- time (50%) work for a person to organise and conduct the survey, to scrutinise the data, enter the data onto a computer, and provide a brief report on the results. It may be feasible for one project officer to conduct the work in more than one region.

Postal survey costs per region ($000s)

 

WA

NSW

SA (Eyre Pen.)

TOTAL

Salaries and report

13.5

9.0

4.5

27.0

Miscellaneous

3.0

2.0

1.0

6.0

TOTAL

16.5

11.0

5.5

33.0

Field searches costs per region ($000s)

 

WA

NSW

SA (Eyre Pen.)

TOTAL

Salaries and report

16.0

12.0

8.0

36.0

Vehicle

2.7

2.0

1.3

6.0

Miscellaneous

0.7

0.5

0.3

1.5

TOTAL

19.4

14.5

9.6

43.5

State and National costs summary ($000s)

 

1

Thereafter

Total

WA

35.9

0

35.9

NSW

25.5

0

25.5

SA

15.1

0

15.1

National Total

76.5

0

77.5

Comment

Action 10.2 Detail the distribution of Malleefowl in remote areas of SA and WA by field surveys and describe the habitats in which Malleefowl are found.

Justification

An understanding of the distribution and continuity of Malleefowl populations is crucial for effective management at a local, regional and national scale. However, the current distribution of Malleefowl is very poorly known in remote areas such as north and east of the WA wheat belt, and the central deserts of NT, SA and WA. Although most of these habitats are marginal for Malleefowl, the enormous areas involved suggest they may be of great importance for Malleefowl conservation. This action will provide information on the distribution, abundance and habitat preferences of Malleefowl in these remote areas by systematic searches for the birds' footprints, a technique that has been successfully used in such studies before. This action will also form the basis for future monitoring of Malleefowl abundance in these remote areas.

Methods

These surveys will focus on areas in which postal surveys and general bird surveys are unlikely to record Malleefowl, even if the species exists in the area, due to the size and remoteness of the sites. Searches will concentrate on localities at which Malleefowl have previously been recorded and an effort will be made to actively seek information from people with close links to the land, particularly Aboriginal elders, and also mineral exploration and mining companies. At each locality identified from these sources as possibly harbouring Malleefowl, a range of sites will be selected for searches for Malleefowl footprints. Previous studies in central Australia have found Malleefowl in both open mallee and thick mulga, and these habitats had in common some tree cover to three metres in height and (relatively) thick vegetation. These features will be used to select potential sites from satellite images in the absence of advice from people who have experience with Malleefowl in these areas. Methods of conducting searches for footprints have been described (Benshemesh 1995a, b) and involve searching a series of transects through selected areas. Because rain and strong winds eliminate footprints, these surveys will only be conducted after at least one week of dry and calm weather.

Learning from local informants is critical to the success of such searches, especially Aboriginal people who may have access to both first hand experience and traditional knowledge of Malleefowl habitats and localities. Accordingly, a poster will be produced for communities and schools with the objective of informing traditional landowners of the plight of Malleefowl, and inviting information from them. These posters will be distributed to local communities several months before sites are visited on the ground.

Criteria

Successful implementation of this action will involve

Successful outcomes of this action will be

Costs

Costs will involve vehicle and field expenses for a project officer for six months and technical assistant for four months (mostly in the field) in both Western Australia (west of the Great Victoria Desert), and in Central Australia (including the WA side of the Great Victoria Desert).

Surveys costs in each of 2 remote regions ($000s)

Salary: Project officer (6 mo)

22.4

Salary: Assistant (4 mo)

10.0

Vehicle

6.0

Miscellaneous

2.5

TOTAL

40.9

State and National costs summary ($000s)

Year

1

2

Thereafter

Total

Western Australia

0

40.9

0

40.9

Central Australia

0

40.9

0

40.9

National Total

0

81.8

0

81.8

Objective 11: Examine population dynamics: Longevity and recruitment

Action 11.1 Examine the feasibility of automatic recorders for identifying Malleefowl and develop capture techniques.

Specific Aims

Assess the effectiveness of transponder readers and various antenna designs for automatically recording the identity of adults at nests, assess the effect of implanting transponders into neonate chicks, and refine methods of capturing adult Malleefowl.

Justification

Measuring the longevity of breeding Malleefowl and the recruitment of young into the breeding population are dependent on developing efficient methods of capturing the birds and subsequently identifying them in the field. Identification can be achieved by conspicuous methods of marking birds (e.g. colour bands, wing-tags), or electronically by use of passive integrated transponders (PITs). With PIT technology, automatic recorders are often used to identify animals. In regard to Malleefowl, this would provide a large saving in the on-going cost of labour as the PIT reader would only need to be moved between active mounds at each site rather requiring teams of observers to visually identify birds from hides. PIT technology is proven and widely used in industry, zoos, husbandry and wildlife research, but how it can be best employed for examining Malleefowl population structure and recruitment requires some captive and field study.

Methods

Correct placement of the reader antenna within a Malleefowl's mound is critical to reading the implanted PITs. The effectiveness of various antenna configurations at different positions within the mound will be examined by observation of both the transponder reader and the birds' behaviour in the mound. Breeding Malleefowl at Adelaide and Western Plains Zoos have already been implanted with miniature Trovan transponders in their breast muscles and this study could commence without further handling of the birds. These transponders have a read range of about 10 cm and may be implanted in either adults or chicks. Other systems are available that use larger transponders with a reliable read-range of 60 cm (e.g. TIRIS by Texas Instruments) and would be suitable for adults, but not neonate chicks.

The veterinarian at Adelaide Zoo (Dr David Schultz) will routinely implant Trovan miniature transponders into neonate Malleefowl chicks that emerge from the active mound at the Zoo. Dr Schultz will also assess the affect of this procedure on the survival and well-being of these chicks, and will check for possible migration of the transponder as the bird grows, over a period of at least 60 days and indefinitely for birds kept for longer periods.

Efficient and rapid capture of breeding pairs may be possible using new trapping techniques based on behavioural lures (J Benshemesh, unpublished). These techniques will be trialed in the field on 15 breeding pairs. The birds need not be caught during this trial, success of a technique being measured as the time taken to lure both the male and female of a pair into a confined area.

Criteria for success

Costs

Costs Summary ($000s)

Salaries and report

8.0

Transponder reader

3.0

Travel & expenses

1.5

TOTAL

12.5

State and National costs summary ($000s)

Year

1

Thereafter

Total

National Total

12.5

0

12.5

Action 11.2 Measure the longevity of breeding Malleefowl and the turnover of the breeding population, both in areas where fox numbers are reduced and where they are not reduced.

Justification

The adequacy of recruitment in Malleefowl populations is of central concern to the conservation of the species. Assessing the adequacy of recruitment requires firm measures of the average breeding life span of wild Malleefowl and estimates of the turnover of birds in the breeding population. These are essential for modelling the viability of Malleefowl populations, and cannot be reliably obtained by other means. The effect of reducing fox abundance on these parameters is also important information and will provide insights into the affects of these predators on the population dynamics of Malleefowl.

Methods

Six sites will be selected from those established for monitoring (Action 9.1, 9.2), three of which will be baited for foxes and these will be paired with similar sites at which fox numbers are not reduced. These three pairs of sites will be located across the southern range of the species in WA, SA, and VIC/NSW.

It is important that all these sites be isolated and contain no more than about 15 breeding pairs (several potential sites have already been selected in each state, including monitoring grids such as Wandown and Whimpey's (Vic), Ferries-MacDonald (SA), Foster's Rd (WA)). During the first year, all breeding birds will be caught by professionals and permanently marked with both transponders and conventional bands or tags for identification in later years. Blood and feather samples will also be obtained from all handled birds and deposited in museum collections for future genetic reference (no specific actions planned at this stage).

In subsequent years, the presence of every bird at the site will be monitored annually using automatic equipment that is moved from nest to nest during the breeding season (or by direct observation if necessary). This equipment (transponder 'fixed-reader') will be solar powered and, while at a mound, will log the identity of every bird implanted with a transponder that visits that mound. Useful estimates of longevity and population turnover are likely to involve at least five years of data collection assuming an average longevity of 10-20 years for breeding birds.

The work will include the development of standards and protocols for monitoring and the use of the equipment, and production of reporting forms for the information collected in subsequent years. These will be provided in the form of a methods manual and database.

This project could proceed using visual markers alone on birds. However, annual costs of identifying the birds would be at least four times greater, and the effort involved may be more difficult to sustain over several years.

Criteria for success

Successful implementation of this action will involve:

Successful outcomes of this action will be progressively refined with each year of data collection and include:

Costs

Initial set-up per site ($000)

Salaries*

Catching, implanting and reporting

4.0

Vehicle

 

1.0

Equipment:

Transponders

0.3

 

Reader

3.0

 

Materials

1.0

TOTAL

 

9.3

*Rough estimate; costs will be accurately estimated in the feasibility study and are likely to be less.

Annual monitoring costs per site ($000s)

Salaries*

0.9

Vehicle

0.7

TOTAL

1.6

* Volunteers could largely or entirely conduct this work

State and National costs summary for 6 sites ($000s)

Year

1

2

3

4

5

6

Total

WA (2 sites)

18.6

3.2

3.2

3.2

3.2

3.2

34.6

SA (2 sites)

18.6

3.2

3.2

3.2

3.2

3.2

34.6

VIC/NSW (2 sites)

18.6

3.2

3.2

3.2

3.2

3.2

34.6

TOTAL

55.8

9.6

9.6

9.6

9.6

9.6

103.8

*Involving volunteers in collecting these data could reduce of the monitoring cost of this project by 60%. The remaining costs would largely be for vehicle fuel, and volunteers should be reimbursed these out of pocket expenses.

Comments

Action 11.3 Measure recruitment of young into breeding populations by marking and releasing chicks, and subsequently monitoring breeding adults.

Justification

The adequacy of recruitment in Malleefowl populations is of central concern to the conservation of the species. This long-term project will provide firm measures of the rate and pattern of recruitment of young into the breeding populations, the seasonal conditions under which successful recruitment of young occurs, and the age at which young birds begin breeding. These measures are essential for modelling the viability of Malleefowl populations, and cannot be reliably obtained by other means. The effect of reducing fox abundance on these parameters will also be measured and provide insights into the effect of these predators on the population dynamics of Malleefowl.

Methods

This action is contingent on the success of Action 11.1 and the implementation of Action 11.2.

Chicks will be released at four of the six sites at which adult identity is monitored (above). Two of these will be baited for foxes, and these will be paired with similar sites at which fox numbers are not controlled. Chicks will be obtained by artificially incubating eggs removed from mounds, and this will be done locally (within 100 km of site) to reduce transport costs. Chicks might also be obtained by trapping them as they emerge from mounds in the field. These chicks will be implanted with a transponder by a professional, measured, weighed, and released at the mound from which they originated within four days or sooner. Up to 100 chicks (6-8 clutches) will be treated in this way at each site and this program will continue for five years to sample different seasons. Within any one season, representation will be similar for the chicks that emerge early (November-December) from mounds, and those that emerge late in the season (February-March).

It is important for neonate chicks to be the focus of this study rather than older captive- reared birds. Although losses are expected to be high, the results from using neonate chicks will best reflect the natural situation and will also minimise housing costs.

Criteria for success

Successful implementation of this action will involve the marking and release of at least 75 chicks at each site with less than 5% injury or death. Few of these chicks are likely to be seen again. Most are expected to die, and those that do survive are unlikely to be recorded for several years when they start breeding and using mounds.

A successful outcome of this action will involve the recording of breeding birds that were marked as chicks. This will provide the basis for a greater understanding of recruitment of young into the adult population and a measure of the effect of foxes on Malleefowl population structure.

Costs

Initial set-up per site ($000)

Incubator

1.5

Training

0.5

TOTAL

2.0

Annual costs per site ($000)

Salaries*

Collecting eggs, implanting and release of chicks

1.2

Equipment

100 Transponders

0.8

 

Materials

0.2

Vehicle

(2,400 km total)

1.2

TOTAL

 

3.4

*Involving volunteers could reduce these costs.

State and National costs summary for 4 sites ($000s)

Year

1

2

3

4

5

6

Total

Set-up

8.0

0

0

0

0

0

8.0

Annual costs*

13.6

13.6

13.6

13.6

13.6

13.6

81.6

National Total

22.6

13.6

13.6

13.6

13.6

13.6

89.6

*Involving volunteers could reduce these costs.

Objective 12: Describe habitat requirements that determine Malleefowl abundance

Action 12.1 Describe the habitat requirements and preferences of Malleefowl, with a view to identifying critical habitat components that may underlie variations in breeding densities.

Justification

Despite the increasing rarity of Malleefowl, little is known about the habitat features that are important for the persistence and success of the species. A detailed analysis of these requirements will provide a basis for understanding the response of the species to a range of factors and the birds' habitat preferences in general. This will elucidate the factors that are limiting the abundance of the species. Other benefits for management will include the ability to:

An understanding of the habitat requirements of the species is particularly pertinent now considering predicted climate changes and the effects this may have on habitats that Malleefowl occupy.

Methods

This work will be conducted across all states and use the monitoring grids where the abundance of Malleefowl has previously been determined (Objective 9). There are currently over 40 such sites across Australia and more than 20 additional sites are planned. These will provide a firm basis for multivariate analyses and modelling.

Sampling strategies will be developed to measure habitat variables and involve statistically adequate replicates at each site. Variables will be selected to provide indices of habitat structure, substrate, abundance and diversity of food types, climate/rainfall, predator abundance, disturbance history (eg. fire, grazing, etc.) and landscape characteristics such as reserve size, connectivity, and distance from open habitats such as woodlands or agricultural land. In particular, indices of food abundance will focus on general classifications (ie. herbs, seeds, insects) of those foods known to be consumed by Malleefowl. Sampling will occur in spring when annual plants are present, and in autumn when food is most likely to be in short supply.

Analysis will focus on the identification of critical factors that explain the large variations in breeding density across Australia. In this regard, specific hypotheses will be extracted from the literature and tested against the data set. The monitoring data will be made available to the project and an effort will also be made to explain temporal trends in Malleefowl abundance. All data collected in this study will be available to the Recovery Team and archived in its raw form for future reference.

Criteria

Successful implementation of this action will involve:

Costs

The major costs associated with this action will be salaries for one full-time research officer for 12 months and one full-time field assistant for 4 months during data collection. The work will be conducted in the second or third year of this plan after the Malleefowl breeding densities have been determined at a range of sites in Western Australia and New South Wales. The work would suit post- graduate research (M.Sc. or Ph.D.) or professional ecologists.

Itemised cost ($000s)

Salary: Project officer (12 mo)

45.0

Salary: Assistant (4 mo)

9.0

Vehicle and travel

6.0

Miscellaneous

2.5

TOTAL

62.5

National costs summary ($000s)

 

1

2

3

Thereafter

Total

National Total

0

0

62.5

0

62.5

Objective 13: Define appropriate genetic units for management of Malleefowl

Action 13.1 Perform mitochondrial and nuclear DNA analyses of Malleefowl populations across the species' range, and determine where major disjunctions in genetic variation occur.

Justification

The geographic distribution of genetic variability in Malleefowl throughout its range is not known. However, this is essential information if this genetic diversity and the species in general are to be conserved. In particular, an understanding of the genetic structure of the species is essential for the management of its fragmented populations and for rational implementation translocation programs such as re-introductions and supplementation of existing populations. Reasons to suspect that genetic differentiation of populations may have occurred include the enormous range and low vagility of the species, fragmentation of its range, and because morphological differences between western and eastern birds have been suggested by some authorities.

The current action, involving both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA analyses, will provide a definitive description of the genetic variation in Malleefowl across Australia. This will provide an objective measure of the appropriate units of management for the species and an assessment of whether current and proposed management units (such as the key NHT regions) represent biological units of management.

Methods

Malleefowl genetic material, in the form of tissues from embryos, is already being collected across the species' range. Blood or tissue samples from adults, and skin and feather samples from museum specimens, are also being collected from zoos and museums around Australia. These collections have been organised by staff of the South Australian Museum where samples are stored in preparation for molecular analysis. The current action will use these samples comprising a total of 125 samples from 2 locations in NSW, 16 locations in SA, 8 locations in Victoria, and 8 locations in WA. These represent a broad coverage of the range of the species with more detailed collections from eastern SA and Victoria.

To date, the South Australian Museum has examined genetic variation in a portion of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase 1 gene from six individual Malleefowl from across the species' range. While each had a unique mitochondrial haplotype, the level of sequence divergence was very low, ranging from 0.3% to 0.8%. Sequence divergence among cytochrome oxidase 1 genes of other megapode species ranges from 5% to 21.5% indicating that megapodes do not have intrinsically a slow rate of cytochrome oxidase 1 molecular evolution.

The S.A Museum has also obtained a number of microsatellite PCR primer pairs from researchers in the USA that have been characterised in the chicken but have not yet had the opportunity to test them on Leipoa DNA. In 1995 an honours student, Deanne Hryciw, was able to determine that microsatellites are abundant in the Malleefowl genome, so it will be possible to isolate these markers directly from Malleefowl.

The South Australian Museum plans now to examine genetic variation in mitochondrial genes and nuclear microsatellite loci. Classification of management units for Malleefowl requires information from both of these types of genetic markers. Sufficient samples are available to complete an analysis of the distribution of genetic variation in the Malleefowl. However funds are required to complete the mitochondrial DNA analysis and to isolate microsatellite markers and type the samples.

Technical officers will conduct these analyses on the available genetic material at the South Australian Museum over two years. Scientific staff at that institution will supervise all aspects of the work including reporting of the results and detailing the management implications.

Criteria for success

The study is designed to test for population sub-structuring at the regional and national levels. The following milestones are listed in temporal order

Costs

Itemised costs ($000s)

MtDNA typing

 

Preparation of tissue samples

1.0

128 samples at $25/sample

3.2

Salary: technical officer 8 months

17.6

Microsatellite Isolation and Typing

 

Isolation and PCR primer design for 6 loci

2.1

Typing of 200 samples for 6 loci

10.0

Salary: technical officer 12 months

26.4

TOTAL

60.3

National costs summary ($000s)

Year

1

2

Thereafter

Total

Salaries

15.9

28.1

0

44.0

Materials

5.9

10.4

0

16.3

National Total

21.8

38.5

0

60.3

Objective 14: Assess captive breeding and re-introduction of Malleefowl.

General Comments

Re-introduction is a management option which aims at re-establishing a species (such as Malleefowl) where it has become locally extinct, whereas supplementation involves adding individuals to an existing population where it is shown that the population cannot survive without additional individuals.

Re-introduction and supplementation of Malleefowl populations should only be undertaken after first restoring the integrity of habitats (e.g. reducing grazing and predators, fire protection, fencing, restoring connectivity; see Objective 1 to 7) and verifying that the intended release sites are suitable habitat for the long-term success of Malleefowl (Objective 12). Ideally, these programs should be conducted after the current distribution and abundance of the species has been detailed (Objective 10), and the appropriate genetic units for management have been determined (Objective 13). For supplementation as an ongoing management program it is also important to understand the population dynamics of the species (Objective 11) so that a suitable number of birds can be introduced into existing populations. Pending the collection of some of these data and a review of translocation programs, efforts to conserve Malleefowl should be concentrated on the wild populations in the short to medium term.

Before further re- introduction/supplementation programs are initiated, it is important to assess the success of current and past programs. Ideally, success should be measured in terms of the establishment of self-sustaining breeding populations although such results may not be obtained for at least 5 years following the releases. The regional management plans (Objective 8) will provide a basis for translocation programs should they be shown to be required.

Action 14.1 Review past and current translocation, captive-rearing and breeding programs

Specific Aims

Assess the success of the current programs in terms of the fates of eggs and birds while in captivity and determine the causes of bird losses and injuries with a view of minimising these in the future. Provide a husbandry manual for captive-raising and captive- breeding Malleefowl for the purpose of re- introduction and supplementation of populations. Clarify the future direction of WPZ and its role as a continuing captive breeding program for re-introduction or supplementation of Malleefowl populations.

Justification

There have been three captive-rearing programs in recent years in NSW (involving NPWS and the Western Plains Zoo), WA ('Project Eden' involving CALM), and in SA (involving DEHAA and Adelaide Zoo at Monarto). The success of these programs has differed markedly in terms of survival of eggs and birds while in captivity and after release. There are clearly lessons to learn to improve husbandry techniques. Accordingly, the techniques that have been used should be assessed, and the most successful methods should be documented to improve the success of current and future programs. The role of the captive-breeding programs should also be reviewed and clarified.

Methods

Data on the sources, reasons for losses, and ultimate fates of all birds held in captive- rearing programs will be collated. A husbandry manual for Malleefowl in captivity will be produced by Western Plains Zoo with input from NSW NPWS, WA CALM, the Adelaide Zoo, and Mr Whimpey Reichelt (Little Desert Lodge, Vic) who has extensive experience with Malleefowl in captivity. This husbandry manual will include guidelines for collecting, transporting and incubating eggs, and the subsequent diet, care and handling of Malleefowl while they are in captivity. A studbook will be developed by Western Plains Zoo for the birds across Australia that are held and bred in captivity. The role of the Western Plains Zoo as a continuing captive-breeding program for ecological research and re- introduction/supplementation of Malleefowl populations will also be reviewed.

Costs

Itemised costs ($000s)

Husbandry Manual

10.0

Studbook

2.0

Review

8.0

TOTAL

20.0

National costs summary ($000s)

Year

1

2

Thereafter

Total

National Total

12.0

8.0

0

20.0

Objective 15: Investigate infertility and agrochemicals

Action 15.1 Assess the extent of infertility of Malleefowl in small reserves and investigate the possibility that this is caused by agricultural chemicals used on crops and pastures in which the birds feed.

Justification

Several anecdotal accounts suggest declining fertility of Malleefowl in small habitat remnants near croplands (S Donellan and R Foster pers comm 1996, see also Brickhill 1987a). As Malleefowl frequently feed on the edges of crops and pastures, it is possible that this effect is due to agricultural chemicals although there is little evidence as yet to support this hypothesis. Other possible causes include senescing individuals and inbreeding depression. This action would document the extent of the problem and determine whether a larger study is warranted.

Method

A sample of six small reserves bordered by cropland will form the basis of this action, and these sites will be selected in south-east SA where there is considerable data on the distribution of Malleefowl, and where chemically induced infertility has been speculated. Up to three mounds per site will be sampled, and mounds would be excavated at least three times during the breeding season using established techniques to determine the number of eggs laid and hatching success. These data will be compared to previous detailed studies that have described the reproductive output and hatching success of Malleefowl at a range of reserves. A list of chemicals used in the recent past on adjacent crops where Malleefowl feed will be sought from relevant farmers.

All birds found dead on roadsides or elsewhere will be collected and sent to wildlife authorities either fresh or frozen. Analysis of these birds will include examination of the cause of death, the likely age of the specimen, and the condition of its reproductive organs.

Costs

Costs are estimated for a consultant, but tertiary students or community members with appropriate training could conduct this project.

Itemised costs ($000s)

Salaries (consultant)

5.6

Vehicle

1.6

TOTAL

7.2

National costs summary ($000s)

 

1

2

Thereafter

Total

National Total

0

7.2

0

7.2

Objective 16: Analyse remote sensing data

Action 16.1 Fully analyse the results of previous thermal-sensing scans for Malleefowl mounds and relate these to previously collected data describing the mound- opening behaviour of the birds.

Justification

Techniques of remote sensing Malleefowl mounds using airborne thermal sensing have shown promise for rapid survey, but the data collected during trials of the technique in 1993 have yet to be fully analysed. Broad- scale surveys using the thermal-sensing technique are unlikely to be cost effective for Malleefowl conservation until the method of scan-data storage and availability is improved. Nonetheless, the results of the trial scans and analysis of mound-opening by Malleefowl should be completed in preparation for developments in scanning technology.

Methods

About 11 gigabytes of low-level scan data involving several wavelengths, and detailed descriptions of the mound-opening behaviour of Malleefowl, were obtained during these trials and in related studies. These data are the property of NRE and EV and are stored at the Fire Management Branch NRE where they will be made available to students and others who might develop the technique further. In particular, Dr Chris Bellman (RMIT) has agreed to supervise students that have an interest in analysing these data as a post graduate project. Of most interest are:

Access to data and reports describing the mound opening behaviour of Malleefowl during the scans are essential for analysis of the scan data and will also be made available to students undertaking the project.

A large amount of data was also collected describing the mound-opening behaviour of Malleefowl after the scans, and during subsequent seasons (1994/5, 1995/6). Analyses of these data will be completed and a report lodged with NRE. The report will include the raw data so that it may be used in the future to simulate the likely success of scans once the characteristics of successfully detected mounds is described.

Criteria for success

Costs

Costs involve funding a suitably trained person to undertake the transcription and analysis of the scan data and over a six-week period. This project may be suitable for third- year or Honours student.

Itemised costs ($000s)

Salary

4.5

Expenses

1.0

TOTAL

5.5

National costs summary ($000s)

 

1

Thereafter

Total

TOTAL

5.5

0

5.5

C) COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND PROJECT COORDINATION

Objective 17: Facilitate communication between groups

Action 17.1 Encourage the formation of a network of volunteers and other people interested in Malleefowl conservation across Australia and provide means for them to communicate effectively between themselves, with the Recovery Team, and other interested individuals.

Justification

The involvement and support of the public has been and will increasingly be crucial to the Malleefowl recovery effort across Australia. Community groups have been instrumental in establishing monitoring sites, monitoring breeding numbers, and improving habitat by establishing corridors, fencing out stock and reserving land. The geographic range of Malleefowl means these groups often work in isolation although they face similar challenges across the continent. Moreover, groups often perceive they have few avenues available for advice and are often reluctant to directly approach wildlife authorities or other community groups.

Method

The national Malleefowl conservation newsletter 'Around the Mounds' will continue to provide biannual updates of progress toward Malleefowl conservation across Australia, particularly in terms of the Recovery Plan. This newsletter has recently been added to the Environment Australia home page.

An Internet mailing list or discussion group will be established and include community groups, members of the Recovery Team, land managers and other interested individuals. This will enable community members to post a question or a reply to all other people on the mailing list if they so wish, as well as being able to contact individuals directly. In this way, community members will not have to determine who might be most helpful for their enquires, but may post a message to numerous people and choose the most helpful response from the replies they receive. As well as providing the best advice available, such a system is likely to foster a nationwide community attitude, facilitate links with a variety of people, and provide direct access to the Recovery Team. Most people are likely to be able to access the Internet through local community centre and schools, Internet cafes, work, or at home.

A forum will be held in 2001 with the aim of bringing community groups together from across Australia. This forum will be modelled on the successful Malleefowl Forum held in Adelaide in 1995 and will focus on ways of implementing the community based actions outlined in this Recovery Plan. In particular, the 2001 forum will decide on a standard approach to data collection and reporting, and discuss issues such as funding sources, the needs of the community in implementing conservation works, and methods of raising public awareness.

A Malleefowl home page will be established to provide a central point of reference for education and community awareness. This home page will provide links to related Internet sites and newsletters, and to the National Malleefowl Recovery Plan. Birds Australia, the Threatened Species Network, and Environment Australia will be approached as potential hosts for the site.

Costs

Costs for the Malleefowl Forum involve transport for delegates, conference organisation and venue, and publication of proceedings.

The cost of a Malleefowl home page involves the initial production of the site, and a monthly maintenance charge by the server.

Itemised costs ($000s)

Around the Mounds newsletter (per year)

1.5

Internet Home page set-up

1.0

Forum

25.0

National Total

27.5

National costs summary ($000s)

Year

1

2

3

3

4

5

Total

TOTAL

27.5

1.5

1.5

1.5

1.5

1.5

35.0

Objective 18: Raise public awareness through education and publicity

Action 18.1 Raise public awareness of Malleefowl conservation by publicising the recovery effort, beneficial management practices, and the contributions made by community groups.

Justification

The involvement and support of the public has been and will continue to be vital for the recovery effort in both on-ground management and research actions. Community groups provide an important avenue of disseminating information about Malleefowl conservation and beneficial management. The Malleefowl is popular in rural areas and is also a useful flagship species as it and many of the management actions required to secure existing populations are of a general benefit to conservation. Public recognition of the contributions of community groups is important to maintain the enthusiasm and interest of these groups. This publicity will also assist groups in recruiting members, and raise public awareness of conservation in general, and Malleefowl in particular.

Method

Public Zoos that display Malleefowl will display information about the Malleefowl recovery effort with emphasis on community involvement. Community groups should develop a close working relationship with media units in such zoos and with the Threatened Species Network, as collaboration would provide mutual advantages for public relations and the conservation of Malleefowl.

A number of community groups and individuals regularly present information on Malleefowl and the recovery effort to the wider public. This information is presented in talks to local organisations, clubs, and schools, and by displays at field days, fairs, and rural community centres. This service has great potential for publicising to a diverse array of landholders and land-managers the threats to Malleefowl and beneficial management practices. The continuation of these services will be encouraged and supported by the Recovery Team. While remuneration for this service is usually not required, assistance in developing displays and presentations would greatly enhance the educative value of this publicity.

Related Actions: 1.2, 1.3, 2.5, 3.4, 4.1, 6.1, 7.1, and 10.1

Costs

Zoos that exhibit Malleefowl exist in NSW, SA, VIC, and WA. Community members in these states also provide presentations to schools and other groups.

Itemised costs ($000s)

Display boards at Zoos (per state zoo)

2.0

Initial assistance for presentations and displays by community groups (per state in year 1)

2.0

Recurring assistance for presentations (per state after year 1)

1.0

State and National costs summary ($000s)

Year

1

2

3

4

5

Total

Per State

4.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

8.0

National Total

16.0

4.0

4.0

4.0

4.0

32.0

Objective 19: Manage the recovery process

Action 19.1 Regularly review progress in the recovery plan and manage the recovery process on a national and state level by teams with appropriate expertise and community standing.

Justification

The existing Recovery Plan must be reviewed and modified as necessary in the light of new information, and progress on actions must be coordinated and monitored throughout the species range. The existing Recovery Team is the appropriate body to undertake this management, but should be expanded to include better representation of community groups. On a state level, government and non-government agencies, zoos, and various independent community groups have been and are likely to be involved in recovery actions and representatives of these interested parties should meet regularly to review progress and coordinate activities.

Methods

Meetings of the National Recovery Team will be convened once a year or more often if appropriate. In the past, meetings of the Malleefowl Recovery Team have been arranged to coincide with other species' recovery team meetings. This practice has reduced costs and will continue, and other methods such as phone-conferences and Internet-conferences will also be employed to facilitate communication across Australia. The team, comprising representatives from wildlife authorities in each state in which Malleefowl occur, the Endangered Species Unit (Environment Australia), Birds Australia, and researchers, will be expanded to include a community representative from each state with an active recovery group. Invitations to attend the meetings as observers will also be extended to the Threatened Species Network coordinator and wildlife authorities in the Northern Territory.

State based recovery groups will be convened once a year in early spring or more often if needed. Such groups already exist in SA, Vic and WA, and similar groups will be formed in NSW. State groups will focus on facilitating and implementing the recovery actions, particularly at the community level, and coordinating the activities of individual parties.

Costs

Costs are estimated for transport, living expenses and reporting of minutes. Salaries are not included.

Itemised costs per year ($000s)

State group meeting (per State)

1.2

National Recovery Team Meeting

5.0

National costs summary ($000s)

Year

1

2

3

4

5

Total

State group meetings (4 States)

4.8

4.8

4.8

4.8

4.8

24.0

National meetings

5.0

5.0

5.0

5.0

5.0

25.0

National Total

10.8

10.8

10.8

10.8

10.8

54.0