Fauna relocation during vegetation clearing – is it really worth it?

Simoselaps bertholdi_5754

Vegetation clearing is a precursor to many urban, industrial and mining developments. Vertebrate fauna are often lost and injured during this process, however, these impacts can be mitigated by implementing a fauna salvage and/or fauna relocation program. A recent paper (Thompson and Thompson 2015) reports on the success of a trapping and relocation program prior to vegetation clearing on the northern fringe of the Perth urban area to save more than 850 individual vertebrates. The rescue program deployed 275 bucket pit-traps, 550 funnel traps and 4km of drift fence. The second example cited was the salvage and relocation of >11, 800 small vertebrates from vegetation clearing at a construction project in the Pilbara.

The paper comments on the lack of data in the scientific literature describing the success or failure of relocating generic fauna assemblages that are caught prior to and during vegetation clearing programs, although there is a growing body of literature detailing the success or failure of relocating conservation significant fauna.

Companies that do undertake fauna relocation programs without a direct compliance requirement should be publicly applauded because of the benefit to the environment and because it may encourage others to follow suit.

Comment is also made in the article on the lack of information about what constitutes a good relocation site for a fauna assemblage, whether it is cost effective to implement such programs and how the programs should be monitored.

The paper concludes by indicating that industry would benefit from clear guidelines on fauna salvage and fauna relocation requirements prior to and during vegetation clearing programs as it is likely that a very large number of animals could be relocated that would otherwise perish during these programs. The authors recommend that state government environment agencies issue such guidelines.

Monitoring of the success of relocation programs is also important to ensure such programs are cost effective and the data inform subsequent management practices. Below are some of the fauna caught during the fauna relocation program. 

Delma concinna_5819

Delma concinna

Ctenotus fallens_5719

Ctenotus fallens

Strophurus spinigerus_5094

Strophurus spinigerus

Thanks to Ray Turnbull for providing the great photos

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