Fire-stricken gliders offered new forest homes after wildfires destroyed habitat


Larger gliders that lost their log homes in the Black Summer fires have been given new high-tech digs with great insulation, top-notch security, and great views.

The world’s largest gliding marsupial was already considered vulnerable to extinction before severe wildfires wiped out nearly a third of its habitat.

Experts soon realized they were dealing with a housing crisis, with flames destroying mature, hollow trees the gliders use for shelter.

Their thoughts turned to nest boxes as an emergency measure. But standard models, with thin walls and lack of thermal protection, were unsuitable for gliders, which do not eat if they get too hot.

That’s a recipe for death in days, as gliders are low in fat and rely on low-calorie eucalyptus leaves for food and water.

“They are just like us. We don’t feel like a big meal when we’re hot, nor does she. But their food is not full of energy and fat,” said Dr. Kara Youngentob of the Australian National University.

Fire-stricken gliders offered new forest homes after wildfires destroyed habitat

“They also get all their water from their leaves. So if they don’t eat that much, they get dehydrated.”

Hi-tech nest boxes are mounted in fire-stricken forests to provide shelter for larger gliders.

The marsupial species lost over 30% of its habitat during the Black Summer wildfires.


— ANU Media (@ANUmedia) June 15, 2022

Thanks to a three-pronged collaboration, the humble nest box has now received a hi-tech overhaul based on modern building standards.

The new and improved model features insulation, air gaps, and heat-reflective, fire-resistant coatings to create shelters that are not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

“I have affectionately called this design the Goldilocks Box,” said WWF Australia’s endangered species ecologist Kita Ashman.

“We hope this project can help them persevere as the forest recovers and move them back to areas that have been burned.”

Have you ever wondered what a larger glider looks like when it glides?

Unlike other gliders, the diaphragm in the larger glider only goes to the elbow. They tuck their hands under their chins and push their elbows forward to slide! 🦅

— WWF_Australia (@WWF_Australia) June 14, 2022

About 120 boxes have been installed in fire-stricken forests in Tallaganda National Park, southeast of Canberra, and in a state forest in NSW. Another 120 have gone up near Bendoc in East Gippsland in Victoria.

It was not an easy task. Specialized teams had to maneuver the 15kg boxes into place up to 30m above the ground, as larger gliders spend most of their time high in the canopy.

ANU will monitor the success of the intervention.

“It will help us understand whether expensive interventions such as nest boxes are the best use of funding in our urgent mission to halt the decline of larger gliders,” said Dr. Boynton.

Greening Australia was also part of the project, providing the initial design for the new nesting boxes, which was refined and rigorously tested in ANU’s labs before being installed.


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Pinterest
Share on WhatsApp
Related posts