Threatened Species Day fact sheet
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
The tiny and secretive Mount Lofty Ranges Southern Emu-wren has a spectacular long tail of six wispy, emu-like feathers. Their soft high-pitched trills and buzzy alarm calls are difficult to hear. These poor fliers scramble through dense vegetation foraging for insects and spiders. They breed twice in spring/summer and lay three eggs at a time. Less than 500 adults remain.
The Mount Lofty Ranges Southern Emu-wren is listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The EPBC Act is the main Commonwealth legislation for protecting the environment and conserving biodiversity.
All but two populations of the Mount Lofty Ranges Southern Emu-wren occur in the Fleurieu Peninsula Swamps in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia. These swamps, which also provide a home for a number of other threatened plants and animals, are listed as critically endangered under the EPBC Act. The remaining Emu-wren populations can be found in dry-heathland on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
The Mount Lofty Ranges Southern Emu-wren can be found in dense vegetation up to one metre high. Its swamp habitat is often characterised by tea-tree bushes, grasses, sedges and ferns.
Habitat clearance and fragmentation have all contributed to the decline of this species. Inappropriate slashing, draining and spraying regimes, over-grazing and repetitive burning often further degrade habitat.
Emu-wrens seldom move across open spaces and when the habitat fragments, they become isolated in patches. These small, local populations are at high risk of extinction through factors such as fire, flooding, predation and inbreeding.
Together with the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust, the Conservation Council of South Australia has operated a recovery program since 1995. Volunteers, landholders, scientists, community groups and the Government are working together to protect, enhance and monitor habitat, and to raise awareness of the plight of this endangered bird, ensuring its needs are considered in regional planning. Native vegetation corridors between swamps are being developed to promote movement and breeding between populations.
Here's how you can help the Mount Lofty Ranges Southern Emu-wren as well as other threatened swamp species:
- join the efforts of community groups and other volunteers already assisting the project;
- collect and germinate local seeds and attend planting days;
- learn more about this endangered bird by visiting the Mount Compass Area School Wetland and Boardwalk.
Found on a unique composition of rocks and soils, the Swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula are home to an amazing variety of plants and animals, including the nationally endangered Mount Lofty Ranges Southern Emu-wren. Many of these species are found nowhere else in the world.
The Fleurieu Peninsula forms the southern "foot" of the South Mount Lofty Ranges, approximately 50 to 80 kilometres south and south west of Adelaide. The Fleurieu Peninsula Swamps are densely vegetated and occur adjacent to waterlogged soils around low-lying creeks and flats. The Swamps usually have reedy or heathy vegetation growing on peat, silt, peat silt or black clay soils.
Only 545 hectares of the Swamps remain in good condition. These are mostly in small and isolated pockets. The Swamps have been heavily impacted by native vegetation clearance, altered hydrology and catchment processes, nutrient imbalance, isolation and fragmentation, draining and clearing for agriculture, heavy grazing, extensive burning and weed invasion. The Swamps are listed as a critically endangered ecological community under the EPBC Act.
Many Swamps are in degraded and poor condition. It is important to encourage regeneration and develop corridors between swamps to allow the movement of endangered species such as the Mount Lofty Ranges Southern Emu-wren.
The Australian Government has assisted in purchasing the largest remaining intact Swamp for inclusion in the National Reserve System and a recovery plan is being developed. Extensive habitat protection and revegetation work is already underway to protect the Emu-wren as well as improving the quality of the Swamps. Land managers in the area are fencing swamps to protect them from livestock.
Guidelines for managing Fleurieu Peninsula Swamps are available from The Mt Lofty Ranges Southern Emu-wren Recovery Program
Telephone: (08) 8223 7427
For more information about how you can help threatened species in South Australia, contact the SA Threatened Species Network Coordinator:
Telephone: (08) 8223 5155
You can also find out more information about Australia's threatened species by calling the Department of the Environment and Heritage Community Information Unit on free call 1800 803 772 or by visiting: the website at www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened