Guidelines for detecting mammals listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
This report updates and expands on a draft report prepared in June 2004 by Cate McElroy. Sandy Ingleby and Jayne Tipping directed, proof-read and helped to write the 2004 report. Joanne Stokes and Shaun Barclay provided technical assistance in the preparation of the 2004 report.
The 2004 report was reviewed by Martin Schulz and Robert Close and the individual species profiles were reviewed by Martin Schulz (small and arboreal mammals), Robert Close (medium-sized mammals and rock wallabies), Chris Belcher (quolls and wombats) and Sandy Ingleby (bridled nailtail and spectacled hare wallaby). Additional species profiles were prepared for the updated (2010) report by Martin Schulz and reviewed by Robert Close. Updates to the information contained in the 2004 report were prepared by Martin Schulz, Lisa McCaffrey, Mark Semeniuk, Dejan Stejanovic, Rachel Blakey and Glenn Muir. Glenn Muir co-ordinated the project team and reviewed the final report.
In preparing these standards, a large number of experts have provided a wealth of experience, and in some cases unpublished results, so that all listed non-flying mammal species could be adequately considered. These include, in particular, Barbara Triggs for providing a list of EPBC Act listed species that can be distinguished from hair samples, Joe Benshemesh (NT DIPE, Alice Springs) for the marsupial mole species, Jody Gates (SA DEH, Kangaroo Island) for the Kangaroo Island dunnart, David Paull (UNE) for the Pilliga mouse, Chris Dickman (University of Sydney) for the mulgara and the ampurta, Peter Canty (SA DEH) for the kowari, Tony Friend (WA DEC, Albany) for the numbat, Peter Banks (UNSW) for an unpublished manuscript relating to the quokka, Shaun Barclay (UNSW) for the greater stick-nest rat, Jenny Nelson (Vic. DSE, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research) and Chris Belcher (Ecosystems Environmental Consultants), for the spotted-tailed quoll and Melinda Norton (NSW DECCW) for the brush-tailed rock wallaby and the yellow-footed rock wallaby.
In addition to the above, the following people contributed information: Kylie Madden, Lloyd Wanderwalin and D Ashworth (NSW DECCW); John Woinarski (NT DIPE); Jeff Cole (NT DCNR); Peter Kendrick (WA CALM); Jennifer Bailey (Qld EPA); Geoffrey Smith and Melanie Venz (Qld SFSU); Sally Bryant (Tas. DPIWE); Peter Menkhorst (Vic. DSE); Graham Gillespie (Vic. DSE, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research); Mark Eldridge (Australian Museum); John Dell (WA EPA); Yolande Stone (NSW DUAP) and Stuart Little (PlanningNSW).
The compilation of such an extensive document would not have been possible without the assistance, advice and support of the people mentioned above.
HOW TO USE THESE GUIDELINES 4
1 INTRODUCTION 6
1.1 Background 6
1.2 Objectives and scope 6
1.3 Guidelines structure and use 7
2 PLANNING AND DESIGN OF SURVEYS 8
2.1 Conducting surveys in six steps 8
STEP 1: Identify taxa that may occur in the study area 8
STEP 2: Determine optimal timing for surveys of ‘target’ taxa 9
STEP 3: Determine optimal location of surveys 10
STEP 4: Establish sampling design and survey effort 11
STEP 5: Select appropriate personnel to conduct surveys 13
STEP 6: Document survey methods and results 14
2.2 Grouping mammals according to body size and survey methods 15
3 OVERVIEW OF SURVEY METHODS AND EFFORT 21
3.1 Diurnal searches for potential habitat resources 21
3.1.1 Caves and rock boulders 22
3.1.2 Tree species and tree hollows 22
3.2 Indirect detection - diurnal searches for signs of mammal activity 22
3.2.1 Community consultation 23
3.2.2 Scats 24
3.2.3 Predator scat and owl pellet analysis 25
3.2.4 Tracks 25
3.2.5 Signs of foraging - diggings 26
3.2.6 Signs of foraging - arboreal species 27
3.2.7 Shelter sites - burrows 27
3.2.8 Shelter sites - nests or scrapes on the ground 28
3.2.9 Shelter sites - nests in trees 29
3.3 Direct detection survey methods 29
3.3.1 Diurnal or daytime searches for active fauna 30
3.3.2 Soil plots / sand trays / predator pads 31
3.3.3 Spotlighting 32
3.3.4 Stagwatching 35
3.3.5 Call detection and call playback surveys 36
3.3.6 Nest boxes and camera traps 38
3.3.7 Hair sampling devices 41
3.3.8 Capture methods for small-sized species: pitfall traps 48
3.3.10 Capture methods for medium-sized species: cage traps 57
3.3.11 Review of survey techniques for rock wallabies 59
4 SURVEY GUIDELINES FOR NON-FLYING MAMMALS 62
4.1 Other legislation and animal care and ethics 62
4.2 Effort 63
4.3 Overview of methods for small sized ground-dwelling mammals 64
4.4 Overview of methods for arboreal mammals 66
4.5 Overview of methods for medium-sized ground-dwelling species 68
4.6 Overview of methods for large-sized ground-dwelling mammals 71
APPENDIX A: STATE AND TERRITORY GUIDELINES AND OTHER SURVEY METHOD DOCUMENTS 336
HOW TO USE THESE GUIDELINES
The purpose of this document is to provide proponents and assessors with a guideline for surveying Australia’s threatened non-flying mammals listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
These guidelines will help you to determine the likelihood of a species’ presence or absence on your site. They have been prepared using a variety of expert sources, and should be read in conjunction with the Department of the Environment’s Significant impact guidelines 1.1 - Matters of national environmental significance.
These guidelines are not mandatory. Proposals failing to meet these survey guidelines for reasons of efficiency, cost or validity will not necessarily default to a judgement that referral is required (that is, that a significant impact is likely), especially where the proponent issues an evidence-based rationale for an alternative survey approach. Alternatives to a dedicated survey may also be appropriate. For example, a desktop analysis of historic data may indicate that a significant impact is not likely. Similarly, a regional habitat analysis may be used to inform judgement of the likely importance of a site to the listed mammals. Proponents should also consider the proposal’s impact in the context of the species’ national, regional, district and site importance to establish the most effective survey technique(s).
Failing to survey appropriately for threatened species that may be present at a site could result in the department applying the precautionary principle with regard to significant impact determinations. That is, if no supporting evidence (such as survey results) is presented to support the claim of species absence, then the department may assume that the species is in fact present. The department will not accept claimed species absence without effective validation such as through these survey guidelines, other survey techniques (for example, a state guideline or an accepted industry guideline), or relevant expertise. Where a claim of absence is made, proposals should provide a robust evaluation of species absence.
Biological surveys are usually an essential component of significant impact assessment, and should be conducted on the site of the proposed action prior to referral. Surveys help to evaluate the impact on matters of national environmental significance by establishing the presence, or the likelihood of presence/absence, of a species. Before undertaking a survey, proponents may wish to contact the Australian Government Department of the Environment’s relevant assessment section to discuss their project and seek advice on the appropriate survey effort and design.
Executing a survey to this standard and identifying listed species presence does not in itself predict a significant impact. The presence of a species is one of many factors that will increase the likelihood of a significant impact. Proponents should use the presence of a species as a consideration in establishing whether a significant impact is likely or certain. As part of the assessment process, sufficient information is usually required to determine if a species’ presence at a site constitutes a ‘population’ or ‘important population’ as defined in the Significant impact guidelines 1.1 publication. Information on whether the occurrence constitutes a ‘population’ or ‘important population’ will not necessarily be generated by surveys conducted using these guidelines.
These guidelines help determine presence or the probability of presence. They do not establish or assess species abundance, as the effort in terms of cost and time required for an abundance survey is much greater than that determining presence/absence. Effective abundance surveys would need to compare survey effort and techniques with further exploration of a proposal’s context, including important population location(s), habitat importance, ecological function and species behaviour.