Dr Alexandra Carthey from Macquarie University in Australia has developed flat-pack habitat pods for small ground-dwelling animals trying to survive after bushfires, and it might just be the difference between life and death for these creatures.
These biodegradable wildlife shelters have been designed as a safe house for ground-dwelling fauna such as bandicoots, possums, antechinus, bush rats and reptiles.
Carthey, a research fellow in the Department of Biological Science, says that arboreal creatures are well catered for with innovative nest boxes, bat boxes, bee and insect hotels.
According to The Lighthouse, the shelters are six-sided pyramids, 60cm each side and 60cm high, made from cardboard, and come in an easy-to-assemble flat pack.
“The pod’s internal structure is three triangles that intersect at a central axis, creating a kind of honeycombed space big enough for the larger animals and providing nooks and crannies for smaller creatures and invertebrates such as beetles, native cockroaches and lizards,” The Lighthouse adds.
The holes, (roughly 150 per pod), are also there to let light in, to help vegetation regenerate and eventually take over the site, leaving the pods to biodegrade in situ. The pods can be anchored with rocks, sandbags or wooden stakes.
Most tiny creatures will die by predation rather than old age, Carthey explains. “A lot of their life, the behavioural decisions they make, and just how they go about their day, is about trying not to get eaten.
“They are hardwired to seek the safety of cover. And if you provide it, they will find it. After a bushfire, the thick grasses, leafy bushes, dropped bark, and leaf litter that small critters normally hide under have been burnt away. For the predator, it’s like suddenly spotting your prey across a mown grass lawn,” she adds.
In collaboration with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Carthey also conferred with the team behind the Living Seawalls project, and designer, Alex Goad, of Reef Design Lab.
“The headland is also the site of a mammal reintroduction program run by Australian Wildlife Conservancy, working in partnership with Harbour Trust. Three small mammal species, which were locally extinct and have been restored since 2017, are likely contenders to benefit from the shelters.
“Some 200 habitat pods will be deployed there. A further 100 will be used in a field trial in the Marramarra National Park, led by a student of Carthey’s, comparing the effectiveness of the pods in recently burnt areas with nearby unburnt areas,” The Lighthouse explains.
Remote sensing wildlife cameras will observe the comings and goings, and surveys of both the pods and vegetation regrowth will be assessed during what is expected to be a 12-month project.
Your information guide to exploring Table Mountain National Park this festive season
Picture: Alexandra Carthey