Report from Hannah: Community Engagement Ranger, Gariwerd

I asked Hannah if she could give us a report on what it’s like at this Covid time in her role as Community Engagement Ranger. I know from casual conversations with her that it’s far from easy, with having to tell disappointed groups (not just FOGGS) that their activities can’t proceed, while working from home in rented cold accommodation. Unfortunately she can’t write something for us this time and I quote “All of our communications need to be approved by our corporate office at the moment. The only thing I could suggest is I forward you a media release about the Rock wallaby work and you promote that?” So that’s what I’ll do.

One of the longest running conservation programs in Grampians National Park is marking its 25th year with an expansion into protecting wildlife from feral cats. Established in 1996, the Grampians Ark program is one of a family of ‘Arks’ in operation across Victoria that use baiting programs to control populations of foxes. Foxes are highly efficient hunters that can kill a large number and variety of mammals, birds and reptiles, as well as preying on livestock on neighbouring properties. Large-scale baiting has proven an effective control method for foxes. The Grampians Ark program has assisted in re-establishing a population of critically endangered brush-tailed rock wallabies. This year, Parks Victoria is aiming to expand the Grampians Ark program to include feral cats, which are being detected more frequently on the park’s surveillance and monitoring cameras in many remote areas of the park.

Feral cats are a declared pest animal that exist over much of Australia and have colonised many habitats. They are skilled hunters and a threat to the survival of many native species including small mammals, birds and reptiles.

During the second half of the year, Parks Victoria is planning to bait areas that are known to be frequented by feral cats, with results monitored through a partnership with Deakin University. The Grampians Ark is one of a number of conservation programs being delivered in the Grampians National Park this year. Other activities include aerial and on-ground operations to control populations of deer and feral goats; control of the invasive Sallow Wattle; and ecological burns designed to create a diversity of habitats for wildlife while contributing to management of bushfires and fuel loads. Data provided by Deakin University and a new citizen science bird monitoring program will help us understand how the wildlife responds to protections from both foxes and feral cats.

To recognise the 25th year of the Grampians Ark, Parks Victoria has produced a video of this important conservation program. I (Margo) am honoured that I appear towards the end of the video, wearing my FOGG badge, First being filmed releasing a new male, brought up from Serendip that morning, then talking about deer and goats.