Environment Native animals seek refuge in Darwin suburbs

Native animals seek refuge in Darwin suburbs

Populations of threatened black-footed tree-rats and possums have declined across most of the Top End, but persisted in Darwin’s suburbs.

Now Charles Darwin University researchers are discovering their secrets to survival.

Project leader Dr Brett Murphy said these tree-dwelling mammals were sheltering in anything from buildings to leafy gardens and pandanus clumps during the daytime.

The team made these early findings after placing radio collars on tree-rats and possums in Casuarina bushland and tracking their movements for six weeks.

Dr Murphy said that a shortage of sizeable hollows in Darwin bushland after Cyclone Tracy had led these animals to seek shelter in ‘foreign’ areas.

“We think these animals are hiding in interesting spots because they are desperate for places to shelter during the day,” he said.

“It appears that they still need bushland areas for food and other resources, but they are also using resources in foreign areas.”

In 2016 the team installed 200 nest boxes in trees along the Cobourg Peninsula, which resulted in a successful uptake by tree-dwelling mammals in the area.

Dr Murphy said the team planned to run a nest box project in Darwin during 2017.

The team includes CDU conservation biologists Professor Michael Lawes and Dr Leigh-Ann Woolley, and Dr Ian Radford from the Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife.

You can read more about the significance of this discovery here. Story credit: Charles Darwin University newsroom.

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