A new home for quendas - National Tree Day Blog

A new home for quendas

A stone’s throw from the striking aqua waters and white sands of Cottesloe Beach lies the lush green haven of Lake Claremont. It’s a seasonal lake, which fills in the wetter months of the year and is teeming with life, both aquatic and terrestrial.

Historically, Lake Claremont was an important hunting and gathering site for the Mooro people, with the wetland and surrounding vegetation supporting a diverse range of flora and fauna. The lake is surrounded by dense bushland covering an area of approximately 70 hectares in metropolitan Perth. It is also an ecological corridor, connecting inland bush with the Swan River and Indian Ocean.  

Since European settlement, Lake Claremont has lived many lives – first as a farming and grazing site, then a rubbish tip and, most recently, a golf course. From 2009, the council adopted a plan to restore the area to the native bushland it once was, with some spaces also reserved for recreational use. Working closely with the community, they have created a thriving patch of forest where native insects, reptiles and small mammals can be found scurrying through the undergrowth while birds flit through the canopy above.  

The Friends of Lake Claremont (FOLC) community group are the team behind much of this change. They started small in 1987, with locals coming together to begin restoring the wetland, which was suffering after over a century of disturbance.  

More than three decades later, these dedicated conservationists are now bringing native wildlife back to this inner-city biodiversity hotspot, with National Tree Day events a key date on their calendar. 

Planet Ark has had the privilege of supporting this ongoing work through The Seedling Bank since 2019, when FOLC became our very first grant recipient. This year, the team has planted 1,050 seedlings with its funding, including a mix of shrubs and groundcovers to increase plant diversity and provide habitat for native animals inhabiting the area.  

Of the seedlings funded by The Seedling Bank grant, 700 were pellitory, an endemic ground cover that FOLC is working hard to return to the area to attract native pollinators like the yellow admiral butterfly. Pellitory and other nettles provide the perfect place for these butterflies to lay their eggs, as the larvae feed on the plants as they grow. In addition to planting for pollinators, 350 shrubs created new habitat forreptiles and mammals, including the endangered quenda.  

Quendas, also known as southern brown bandicoots (Isoodonfusciventer), are small, ground-dwelling marsupials, often mistaken for fat rats, found in southwest Western Australia. They rely on shrubby habitat for nesting and protection from the watchful eyes of predators. Quendas are facing multiple threats, including loss of habitat that is forcing them into residential areas where safe havens are in short supply. Predation by foxes, cats and dogs is also common.  

FOLC volunteers are working with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and the local council to relocate quendas to Lake Claremont. DBCA found that the proposed release sites had a suitable diversity and density of vegetation for high quality habitat and in February 2022, the first group of quendas made themselves at home. Over a period of six weeks, 38 quendas were released, with another five joining them in May. There was an even mix of males and females (six of whom had young in their pouch) released to encourage population growth.  

Most of these animals came from locations around Perth where their habitat was set to be converted into residential housing. Some were also removed from a site where they were found to be eating the eggs of the critically endangered western swamp tortoise. 

The FOLC team has committed to a monitoring program for the quendas that were relocated, with camera traps being installed in the area. Prior to the release, FOLC also worked with local schools to create nesting boxes the team calls ‘bandicoot bungalows’ and set up water stations to maximise the critters’ chance of survival.  

“The aim of the relocation project is to establish a viable population at Lake Claremont which, as the population grows, will disperse into nearby reserves,” FOLC coordinator Nick Cook explains.  

The quenda population will hopefully thrive at Lake Claremont, especially with increased habitat thanks to FOLC. However, predation by domestic cats remains a serious threat in this area. FOLC has been advocating for the development of a local cat law to address this problem. 

“The recent quenda relocation program only adds weight to our position, with quenda juveniles particularly prone to predation by cats,” Nick says. "We have over 100 species of birdlife that will also benefit from these added protections. It is well known that contained cats live longer and healthier lives, so cat containment laws will lead to better outcomes for both pets and our precious wildlife.” 

A book published by the CSIRO, Cats in Australia: Companion and Killer, published in 2019 found that in Australia, cats kill an unbelievable 1.5 billion native animals per year. Feral cats do the most damage, killing an average of 740 animals each year. However, our domesticated feline friends also kill around 75 native animals annually. 

Small mammals are faring particularly poorly in Australia. Quendas are just one native animal whose population is declining due to predation by invasive species (like cats) compounded by habitat loss, climate change and disease.   

In the three years that have passed since we partnered with FOLC, there has already been incredible progress, with the planting site now unrecognisable in the best way possible. The 1,000 seedlings sown in 2019 have transformed the once bare area around the group meeting shed, filling the space with a range of native shrubs and trees. It's a real testament to the hard work of this community group and their love for this local sanctuary. 

“Lake Claremont is a very special place. Not only is it a vital refuge for our precious wildlife, it is an oasis in suburbia that is a critical asset to the community,” Nick says. “Our volunteers and the community have given so much to rebuilding this wetland, I find them all truly inspiring.” 

This story was originally published in the 2022 edition of Tree Talk. Read the latest stories from The Seedling Bank here.

Sarah Chaplin

Sarah joined the Planet Ark team in early 2019 to work in the Information Centre and on the National Tree Day Seedling Bank special project. She is passionate about environmental science and has an academic background in biology and conservation science. Since graduating, she has worked with small not-for-profit environmental organisations and is delighted to be able to put her range of skills and experience to use at Planet Ark.