RMS deems wildlife protection on highway 'huge success'
NEW research shows initiatives being used to protect wildlife during the major Pacific Hwy upgrade are proving a success, according to Roads and Maritime Services.
The Berejiklian Government came under fire late last year following claims the works at the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade were impacting on the koala population.
Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe added installation of fencing may have trapped koalas attempting to flee from a 320ha bushfire.
However, RMS have today revealed a three-year monitoring program of glider poles and rope-canopy-bridges along the Pacific Hwy confirmed they were helping to move wildlife safely across highways.
"Roads and Maritime has been monitoring wildlife and collecting data for more than 14 years to help inform current and future highway upgrade projects. Wildlife includes some of our iconic native species such as koalas, kangaroos, sugar gliders, quolls and the long-nose potoroo to name a few," a spokesperson said.
"It's important that wildlife can move freely to other areas to access food, water and mates so when highways are upgraded or built, opportunities are provided for wildlife to safely cross the highway."
The research monitored poles and rope canopy-bridges used by glider mammal species on the mid north coast between 2013 and 2016.
The study published in Australian Mammalogy, was led by Associate Professor Ross Goldingay from Southern Cross University's School of Environment, Science and Engineering, who said the findings opened the door to further conservation initiatives.
"We high-fived when we saw our first photo of a yellow-bellied glider on a pole. This...confirmed we have a conservation tool with huge potential," he said.
"The use of a glider pole by a Feathertail glider was considered unexpected, given the species' small size and vulnerability in open areas, and a gliding capability not as strong as other larger species," he said.
All three species were recorded moving in both directions, confirming they've not only crossed the highway, but also showing there isn't a behavioural limitation and the gliders are readily willing to use these structures to cross the road.
The crossings were installed as part of strict environment measures on the Sapphire to Woolgoolga upgrade project.
RMS will be installing similar measures on the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade as part of the project's compliance for the management of threatened species.