Community groups in the Yarra Valley are taking action to protect two of Victoria’s faunal emblems – the Helmeted Honeyeater and the Leadbeater’s Possum – thanks to funding through Yarra4Life.
Both species are critically endangered and only found in Victoria. Five community groups have received small grants totalling $23,089 to undertake activities that will restore and protect habitat and secure a future for these unique animals.
Kacie Melfi, Yarra4Life Coordinator said that community groups are the front line in protecting species like these from extinction.
“We’re really pleased to be able to support these community-driven projects; they are out in the reserves and private properties doing the hard work.
“Each project adds another piece to the broader recovery effort and contributes to ensuring our faunal emblems remain in the wild for generation to come.”
Project work will include weed removal to improved existing habitat areas, revegetation to improve the quality of existing habitat and to create new habitat areas and a camera monitoring program.
These projects are supported by the Yarra4Life with funding from the Victorian Government’s Faunal Emblems Program.
(Juvenile lowland Leadbeater’s Possum image by Kylle Fideler)
Yarra4Life, is seeking nominations to join the Yarra4Life Coordination Committee.
Membership of the Yarra4Life Coordination Committee is renewed every three years, as per our Charter. The current Committee term is due to expire 30 June 2020. We are now seeking nominations for the new Committee, for the period of July 2020 to June 2023. Current members are encouraged to re-apply, but new nominations are also welcome.
The Yarra4Life Committee aims to comprise a mix of relevant skills from the local community groups and major Yarra4Life stakeholders. This includes representatives from public land managers and regional-level community/interest groups. The PPWCMA Board will make the final decision regarding the new appointments.
To nominate for a position on the new Yarra4Life Coordination Committee, please download the form below and return to the email address provided.
The latest Yarra4LifeCoordination Committee Charter is also provided. Please submit your nomination by Friday 22 May.
Restoration works are continuing at Burungma Biik in the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve. This 3.4 hectare site was once cleared pasture but is now in the process of being transformed into habitat for Helmeted Honeyeater and lowland Leadbeater’s Possum.
Burrungma Biik was purchased in 2017 thanks to funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the Victorian government’s and Trust for Nature.
The aim of the Burungma Biik restoration project is to reinstate a swampy riparian woodland, which will provide crucial feed and breeding habitat for the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater, Victoria’s bird emblem, and the critically endangered lowland Leadbeater’s Possum.
Yarra4Life in partnership with the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater and Parks Victoria has been undertaking continuous revegetation works. 9,350 plants were planted at the site in 2019, bring the the total to over 51,000 since restoration began in 2018.
This project is supported by Yarra4Life through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
In an exciting first for the species, 37 out-crossed Helmeted Honeyeaters were released to Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve throughout August 2019, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the recovery program to save the species.
Once common in Victoria, the Helmeted Honeyeater is now only found in a single location, 661 hectares of land in Yellingbo.
The Helmeted Honeyeater Recovery Team has been working together to save this precious native bird from extinction, concentrating much of its work on re-establishing the habitat at Yellingbo for the bird, to grow it in size and scale.
In careful trials of gene pool mixing, Zoos Victoria bred Helmeted Honeyeaters at Healesville Sanctuary with their closest relative, the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater. Gene-pool mixing involves breeding individuals that are relatively unrelated to improve genetic diversity. The “out-crossed” birds were bred to try to overcome the harmful effects of inbreeding occurring in the wild Helmeted Honeyeater population.
“Over the 30 years of the recovery program, information and genetic samples were collected that now allow us to understand the harmful effects of inbreeding that could possibly be resolved using gene pool mixing,” said Monash University’s Paul Sunnucks, who led the genetic aspects of the trial with Zoos Victoria.
“Gene pool mixing could help overcome the burden of inbreeding depression and bolster an enduring recovery of the Helmeted Honeyeater.”
Healesville Sanctuary’s Life Sciences Manager, Conservation & Research, Kim Miller, said the mixing of the two subspecies in captivity had been going very well, with no signs of genetic or other problems.
“Over the last 30 years, thanks to the recovery program, the wild population has flourished from around 50 to about 230 today,” Dr Miller said. “It’s exciting to be involved in this important work fighting extinction.”
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Senior Ornithologist, Bruce Quin, has worked on the recovery program for 26 of the 30 years, and says he is still learning more about the birds each day.
“Being part of the recovery team and helping to bring the Helmeted Honeyeater back from the brink of extinction has been a career highlight for me, as is working with all the different agencies and volunteer groups. It is an absolute privilege and joy to do the work we do and we still have a long way to go with the recovery program,” Mr Quin said.
The Helmeted Honeyeater Recovery Team is a voluntary collaboration of conservation organisations including the PPWCMA (via the Yarra4Life program), Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Parks Victoria, La Trobe University, Monash University, Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater and Zoos Victoria.
Since October 2018, Port Phillip & Westernport Catchment Management Authority (PPWCMA) has been leading a Yarra4Life project called The Great HeHo Escape’ project, that aims to help the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater and lowland Leadbeater’s Possum move from survival to expansion.
Funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the project involves 16 organisations and skilled representatives working together to develop two habitat restoration plans. These plans provide a detailed road map for the species’ recovery so new population centres can be established outside of their home at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve.
The plans outline exactly what is needed to establish two new population sites, one in the Yellingbo to Butterfield area and another around the Coranderrk area, near Healesville. The successful rollout of these plans could see both the available habitat and population of the Helmeted Honeyeater triple in 5-10 years.
The project also involves on-ground works that support the rehabilitation of current Helmeted Honeyeater population centres at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, as well as a landholder incentives program to support the establishment of new habitat locations beyond the reserve.
Over the last 12 months, the project has:
The Great HeHo Escape project builds on the long-term successes of Yarra4Life and works previously funded through the 2013-18 phase of the National Landcare Program.
The Helmeted Honeyeater and Leadbeater’s Possum are both critically endangered and identified as priority species in the National Threatened Species Strategy.
The Helmeted Honeyeater has a single wild population of less than 200 individual birds, all of which are confined to Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve in Victoria’s Yarra Ranges. After significant community and agency efforts to build the population from just 50 individuals in the 1990s to its current state, it is now the ideal time to capitalise on these past successes and attempt expansion.
The lowland subspecies of the Leadbeater’s Possum is also confined to this reserve, but has suffered a steep decline in the last two decades. The wild population has plummeting to just 34 individuals and captive breeding has been unsuccessful, meaning the threat of extinction looms large.
As the Yellingbo Conservation Area Draft 10 Year Plan progresses, Yarra4Life’s long standing coordination committee has agreed to provide advice and opportunities for collaboration to support the 10 Year Plan’s implementation. The committee will provide advice to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Parks Victoria.
This change follows an independent review of the Yellingbo Conservation Area Coordinating Committee (YCACC) that found the committee had achieved a number of successes since being formed, but given the Yellingbo Conservation Area (YCA) Draft 10 Year Plan is in the process of shifting from planning to implementation a change to governance arrangements was recommended. The review recommended the management model include a coordinating committee of land managers and a broader-based community reference group.
Rather than establishing a new committee of land managers, it was identified that the established Yarra4Life program already provides a collaborative forum for land managers and community groups within the Yarra Valley.
A partnership between Yarra4Life and DELWP has been established supporting the Yarra4Life Coordination Committee to provide advice and opportunities for collaboration to the agencies that are devising and implementing the YCA Draft 10 Year Plan.
Yarra4Life will continue its long standing work in discussing cross-tenure land management issues and coordinate land management activities more broadly across the Yarra Valley.
For more information on the Yellingbo Conservation Area’s Draft 10 Year Plan please visit: https://engage.vic.gov.au/yellingboconservationarea
Expressions of interest to join the new Conservation Area Community Reference Group are now open please visit: www.delwp.vic.gov.au/YCACRG for more information.
DELWP is seeking expressions of interest to join the new Yellingbo Conservation Area Community Reference Group.
The reference group will support DELWP and Parks Victoria as they establish a new Conservation Area in the Yarra Valley and south east Dandenong Ranges by helping to understand community views and concerns.
DELWP are particularly looking for individuals who are passionate about their community and have skills in one or more of the following areas: conservation, agriculture and horticulture, recreation, tourism, Aboriginal cultural values, and fire risk management and control.
The group will meet four times per year and a commitment of up to three years would be advantageous.
To find out more about the Reference Group, or to express your interest, visit www.delwp.vic.gov.au/YCACRG
Expressions of interest close 11 June 2019.
Thursday 30th May, 4pm-5.15pm,
Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve
Primary school and early childhood educators are invited to join Birdlife Australia and the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater for a FREE professional development workshop focused on the Helmeted Honeyeater.
The program is designed to inspire schools to connect with and conserve Victoria’s critically endangered state emblem.
Participants will take home an education kit with lesson plans and resources to deliver an education program focused on the Helmeted Honeyeater and related conservation issues, that
brings the biological sciences, geography, and sustainability curriculums to life!
For bookings please contact Alex Johnson by May 24th via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 0413 968 036.
This event is supported by the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
Recovery effort for the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater and lowland Leadbeater’s Possum have ramped up in recent years with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program for the ‘Protecting and Connecting EBPC Listed Species and Communities in the Yarra Ranges’ project.
This project has focused on improving the quality and extent of habitat for these two species. The Helmeted Honeyeater is Victoria’s bird emblem but is critically endangered with less than 200 birds found in the wild, all confined to the 600 hectare Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve. The Leadbeater’s Possum is another of Victoria’s faunal emblems, with the majority of the population residing in the Victorian High Country. A unique lowland subspecies of the Leadbeater’s Possum is also only found in the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve. Latest population surveys of this lowland subspecies have found that the population has dropped to just 34 individuals.
The ‘Protecting and Connecting EBPC Listed Species and Communities in the Yarra Ranges’ project used the latest scientific modelling to focus works in the highest priority locations. The project undertook a number activities to achieve improvements in habitat quality and extent with the specific focus on the habitat requirements of Helmeted Honeyeater and lowland Leadbeater’s Possum. Activities included a targeted incentives program for landholders in high propriety locations, the purchase and restoration of a highly significant parcel of land adjacent to known breeding sites, a large scale project on the Indigenous owned property known as Coranderrk and a deer monitoring and control program within Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve.
The project had it’s final year in 2017-18 and has improved the quality and extent of habitat across a total of 680 hectares. It has supported over 30 landholders to improve their land management practice and purchased 2.3 ha of land that has been reinstated into the National Reserve System. Thanks to the efforts of this project, the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater and many other groups and organisation the Helmeted Honeyeater’s 2017 breeding season was the best on record.
Stage one of restoration works at Burrungma Biik have been completed. With the assistance of Trust for Nature, this 2.3 hectares parcel of land was purchased with funding from both the Victorian Government’s Threatened Species Protection Initiative and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and has been transferred into the National Reserve System. Restoration works included deer exclusion fencing around 3.4 hectares and weed control across the site, including the removal off willows, blackberry and prunus species and the revegetation of 2 hectares. This rehabilitation project will provide crucial feed and breeding habitat for the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater, Victoria’s bird emblem, and the fencing will protect everyone’s hard work from feral deer and pesky locals such as wallabies and wombats. A five year restoration plan has been developed for the site with further works funded for 2018-19.
The name Burrungma Biik was given to this piece land by the area’s Traditional Owners, the Wurundjeri people, and means “misty lands”.
Major habitat restoration works at Coranderrk Estate were completed through a grant awarded to the Wandoon Estate Aboriginal Corporation for fencing, weed control and revegetation works at the property near Healesville. This a multi-year project including the planting of 20,000 plants across 10.8 hectares, 5.3 kilometres of fencing protecting 18.2 ha as well as weed and pest animal control in high priority area of the property. These works have been specifically designed to meet the habitat requirements of Helmeted Honeyeater and Leadbeater’s possum as well as fit in with the farming objectives of the Estate.
Today (1 June 2018), the Hon James Merlino, Deputy Premier of Victoria announced another great win for the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater and lowland Leadbeater’s Possum.
Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater and Trust for Nature secured funding through the Judith Eardley Save Wildlife Association and the Myer Foundation to purchase 19.66 ha of intact high quality habitat.
Yarra4Life funded a range of environmental works on this land in 2011-12, so it is wonderful to see that this legacy will live on.
With the support of DELWP and Parks Victoria this land will become part of the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, ensuring it remains protected for these species.