South East Queensland is teeming with unique wildlife, giving the region its character and attracting tourists internationally to see what it has in store. The Scenic Rim only adds to its charm and is currently applying for ECO Destination Certification. It’s no small feat to put in place sustainability practices in the community to achieve such a title.
While much of the Scenic Rim’s tall rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests are protected under the region’s national parks program, most of its lower-lying landscapes are privately owned and out of the control of conservation organisations. Habitat interference on private properties varies from intrusive to destructive, with some landowners saving small pockets of natural habitat while others leave properties completely bare.
[Photo: Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor (Glider Pole and Nest Box)]
Thankfully, one leading voice for biodiversity and ecotourism sought to make a change. Dr Ronda Green, as chair of the Scenic Rim branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, is seeking to end the ripple effect of land clearing on private properties to preserve the region’s unique wildlife.
“Animals often need to move,” said Ronda, emphasising the importance of undisturbed movement around properties, “either daily between sleeping and feeding areas, for seasonal migrations, or opportunistically.”
Animals like squirrel gliders and grey-crowned babblers are familiar to the drier eucalyptus forests scattered through the lower-altitude valleys of the Scenic Rim, relying on them for mobility when certain areas are affected by drought or when different plants fruit or flower.
But undisturbed movement through forests isn’t just part of day-to-day survival; it helps animals escape natural disasters like bushfires.
That’s why Ronda is conducting a project that fosters safe movement for wildlife – through creating wildlife corridors in the Scenic Rim.
But what are wildlife corridors?
[Photo: BioGeo (Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridors)]
When infrastructure, roads, or in this case land clearing divide ecosystems, wildlife don’t have the space to migrate, find food, or mate. Building designated areas for wildlife to roam, or wildlife corridors, ensures safe passage to access the vital resources they need to survive while living amongst communities.
For preservation, for sustainability and for species survival, they are essential.
These wildlife corridors have other benefits too, as Ronda explains. For example, they help biodiversity flourish:
“If there is in fact a fire, extended drought, or other natural or man-made disasters [that] cause the loss of any species, the corridors will enhance the possibility of a natural re-colonisation by that species,” stated Ronda. “[The] ability to move between habitat remnants increases the chances of genetic exchange between [species], thus guarding against the potential deleterious effects of inbreeding.”
Eventually, the team will conduct fauna surveys to compare oil future years to see if the corridors are effective.
[Photo: Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor]
While COVID has created barriers to community involvement in the project, the project has received federal grants from Communities Environment Program and LandCare which have been incredibly helpful in allowing the program to reach its full potential. Major contributors bringing the project together are a dedicated team of volunteers, however Ronda has high hopes ecotourism will contribute to the program’s success soon.
“As soon as we can start running our tours again we intend for that to happen,” Ronda stated.
“We remain hopeful that the [COVID] situation will gradually ease and that 2022 will bring more tours that include some willing helpers, and perhaps even guests from New Zealand and beyond by the end of that year.”
[Photo: Araucaria Ecotours]
As well as building wildlife corridors, Dr Ronda Green is the co-founder of Advanced Ecotourism certified and Hall of Fame entrant Araucaria Ecotours, specialising in giving tourists an expert insight into south-east Queensland’s wildlife using decades of experience as a research ecologist. Her hope for travellers to help this project flourish is through “tourists spending a bit of time as volunteer citizen scientists helping us look for wildlife in our study areas.”
Ronda’s wildlife conservation work as a trusted member of the International Biodiversity Working Group within the TAPAS Group (Tourism and Protected AreaS) of IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), Chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia, and Chair of the Scenic Rim branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia, embodies the intertwined nature of ecotourism and wildlife conservation as a marriage of overlapping ideas and values.
Are you able to volunteer to create wildlife corridors in the Scenic Rim? Visit the Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor website for more information.
[Cover photo: Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor]