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Fauna Monitoring Programs
 
Monitoring fauna populations is an integral part of the program to re-establish biodiversity in our rehabilitated areas, and it serves as an early warning system if something is going wrong. For example, in 1994 a fauna survey conducted at our Huntly mine showed few mammal species were present due to the effects of an overabundance of an introduced predator, the fox. To combat this threat Alcoa joined forces with the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM now DEC) to start Operation Foxglove, a trial fox baiting program.  The trial program was a huge success, and as a result, the Western Shield program was launched.  
 
The Western Shield baiting program uses the naturally occurring poison 1080, found in native plants called gastrolobiums or 'poison peas'. Our native animals have evolved with these plants and have a high tolerance to the poison, however introduced animals such as foxes and cats do not. Since the start of the project fox sightings at Alcoa sites have consistently declined.
 
Alcoa undertakes a number of general vertebrate surveys, including the Long Term Fauna Monitoring Program and frog monitoring. Monitoring is conducted to assess the impacts of mining operations on the fauna of surrounding areas, and to assess the rates of recolonisation following rehabilitation. Studies focus on the groups and species most likely to be impacted, particularly rare or threatened species. For example, we recently studied when rehabilitation provides suitable feeding habitat for black cockatoos and found feeding on Hakea species in rehabilitation as young as 4 years of age.  
 
Invertebrate surveys are usually carried out with the assistance of relevant university and industry experts, who help design the survey methods and usually identify the specimens.
 
Recent fauna surveys indicate a significant recovery in the numbers of several vertebrate species in the area, including the threatened chuditch and rare quenda. In this recent survey, a total of 34 bird species, 16 mammal species, 8 reptile species and 1 frog species were recorded.
 
Overall, bird species numbers have remained similar to those in 1994, however the range of species found in rehabilitation changes over time. Older rehabilitation is more open than younger rehabilitation, as the taller understorey species naturally die off after about 10 - 20 years as the tree canopy develops. With this change we observe more Rainbow Bee-eaters and Yellow Robins, but the Honeyeater numbers decline due to the decline in tall flowering understorey shrubs.
 
To view DEC’s Western Shield Page click here. 
 


Bandicoot

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Populations of the Southern Brown or Quenda have increased in number since the start of operation foxglove

Chuditch

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Monitoring programs are essential to safeguard populations of threatened species like the chuditch.