15238: The Kimberley Bilby Project

    The Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is an important ecosystem engineer which historically ranged across 70% of Australia. Predation by foxes and cats, competition from rabbits and habitat loss, has resulted in a significant reduction in their range, wild extinction in SA, NSW and Vic and a Vulnerable listing at both the WA state and national level. Kimberley populations are critical to the species' viability as they inhabit some of the few remaining wild refugia that have low density or absent populations of foxes and rabbits, and historically have a less severe decline in their population numbers. Due to this importance, the new national recovery plan for Bilbies recognises the importance of finding out more about Kimberly bilby populations. Yet without ecological knowledge of bilbies in the region effective management remains uninformed. The extensive network of Kimberley Indigenous Rangers are keen to further their management of fire and feral cats to improve habitat for bilbies and other species, yet without the regional ecological knowledge it is difficult to conduct effective, targeted and informed management. Due to the bilby's semi-nomadic nature and role as an ecosystem engineer (e.g. providing burrows for other animals, increasing seed germination through foraging digs etc.), they are also an important "umbrella" species for savannah conservation; improving bilby habitat will also improve large tracts of savannah habitat for a suite of other threatened species. 
    To help fill this critical knowledge gap, this project aims to: 
    - Educate and build community capacity in Bilby ecology whilst gathering Bilby knowledge throughout the Kimberley
    - Conduct landscape-scale surveys with seven Kimberley Indigenous Ranger groups utilising traditional knowledge and largely in-kind support
    - Use survey data and collated knowledge to describe regional bilby ecology and inform management strategies for conservation in the Kimberley
    - Conduct targeted fire management in parts of the Kimberley to test preliminary management strategies. 

    If this project remains un-funded, then the Kimberley bilby population will remain undescribed and in decline and Rangers' fire and feral management will remain unguided. Note that significant pilot work has already been completed for this project (largely unfunded), with State NRM funding allowing an immediate start to the project. 

    Project activities will include:
    - Creation of Kimberley specific bilby resources, e.g. posters with traditional language, project materials, cybertracker sequence etc.
    - Community training and education events
    - Collation of preliminary bilby sighting information from seven aboriginal communities
    - Conducting standardised bilby surveys with 7 Ranger groups for distribution, habitat preference, diet etc.
    - Conduct targeted fire management based on the management strategies and surveys
    - Communication activities (media, newsletter etc.)
    - Production of a report presenting bilby ecology, habitat, recommendations and actions for the region

    We believe this is a ground breaking project, utilising an extensive regional partnership of Rangers, ecological NGOs and the local NRM body to help fill the knowledge gap of bilby ecology and management in the Kimberley, telling the bilby's story at both a local level for 7 different traditional owner and the regional level for the Kimberley.

    This project will develop and conduct targeted conservation management of the vulnerable Bilby in the Kimberley through community training and engagement; targeted surveys across 7 Indigenous Ranger groups; fire management to protect bilby habitat; and will combine all this data, knowledge and recommendations in a Kimberley Bilby Management Plan.

    Delivery organisation: Environs Kimberley
    Location: Kimberley
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