The confluence of the Broken River and the Hollands Creek has created a significant floodplain that stretches south east from Benalla for 15 km, to Molyullah, and south for 20 km, to Tatong. Together with the floodplain of the adjacent Broken River and low-lying districts of Warrenbayne further west, this was once an expansive and productive floodplain and riparian system, brimming with wildlife and natural resources. Given the area’s fertility, water security and productivity, it must also once have been a place of significant importance to the several Aboriginal groups that lived in the region.
For the last 150 years Europeans have also exploited the floodplain’s productivity, clearing the area’s indigenous vegetation, then intensively farming the land – first through sheep and cropping and more recently with cattle and a variety of other crops.
The result is an intensively farmed floodplain where native plants and animals are restricted to narrow linear bands along streams, roadsides and several small reserves. In some areas landholders have established shelter-belts and treed corridors, many of which are now becoming useful habitat.
In 2019, Trust for Nature worked with the Molyullah/Tatong Tree and Land Protection Group to investigate whether the Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) and the Endangered Squirrel Glider (P. norfolcensis) might still be present on the Molyullah floodplain – an area of about 12,000 ha. The group has an interest in improving local habitat for native species like these gliders, so knowing whether they are present and where, would enable more effective planning of on-ground actions such as tree planting and nest-box installation.
Both the Sugar and Squirrel Glider are known to occur to the north and west of the study area, in Reef Hills Flora & Fauna Reserve, around Benalla and in the Lurg Hills district. Some Molyullah landholders have seen gliders, but prior to this study there was only one confirmed glider record on the floodplain; a 1966 record of a Squirrel Glider from Molyullah Primary School.
The study conducted nocturnal surveys at 19 sites and detected Squirrel Gliders at four sites. The surveys included infra-red detection and traditional wildlife spotlighting methods.
Suggested conservation actions have been summarized in a stand-alone document – Squirrel Glider Conservation Actions.
Download and read the full report – Squirrel Gliders on the Molyullah Floodplain.
The major findings of the study include:
- Squirrel Gliders were recorded at four sites along Hollands and Ryans Creeks and along road easements.
- The closely related Sugar Glider may occur in the area, but was not detected during this study.
- The most important and secure habitat for the Squirrel Glider is the River Red Gum forest along the Hollands Creek and the lower reaches of Ryans Creek.
- Squirrel Gliders also occur in linear strips of forest along road easements, though these areas are narrower, more fragmented and susceptible to degradation. The extensive areas of paddock trees in parts of the study area constitute marginal glider habitat due to trees being widely spaced and often inaccessible from the core riparian habitat.
- The linear forests along road easements, even if not of the highest quality, may provide important movement and dispersal corridors for gliders and other native species.
- There are a range of activities, including strategic planting and vegetation protection and substituting barbed top wires, than can be undertaken by landholders to improve the quality and connectivity of Squirrel Glider habitat in the study area.
This study was part of a larger collaborative project between the Molyullah/Tatong Tree and Land Protection Group, the Regent Honeyeater Project and Trust for Nature. The project was supported by the Victorian Government.