Our speaker, following the AGM, was Ryan Glowacki, Bushland Manager for the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority.
Ryan began by talking about Quendas, which were until recently considered to be a subspecies of the Southern Brown Bandicoot, Isoodon obesulus. Now they have been assigned their own species: Isoodon fusciventer. Before 1981 there was a healthy population of Quendas in Kings Park, but for many years after that they were considered to be extinct there. Then in 2012 they suddenly appeared in the park, almost certainly released by someone near the Zamia Café. Seven Quenda were eventually caught, and DNA analysis suggested that they were related to Beeliar Wetland Quenda.
Research using motion-sensitive cameras found that Quendas in Kings Park became active earlier in the evening than expected, presumably to avoid foxes which are active later at night. It was also found that after a fox visited an area, Quenda would often not be seen in the same area for three days, suggesting that they were avoiding foxes by scent. Ryan says that a stroll along Law Walk and the lawns in the early evening will almost guarantee a Quenda sighting, and they don’t appear to be frightened of people.
The diggings of Quendas appear to be beneficial to the flora in several ways: they break down the waterproof nature of the soil and help the growth of mycorrhizal fungi. The diggings provide prime conditions for seedling germination. Four tonnes of soil turnover per Quenda per year is estimated.
Other native mammals not often noticed in the park are the four species of micro-bats and the Brush-tail Possums that occur there.
An unknown number of foxes are present in the park. These feral predators are not trapped and removed however, because research suggests that as soon as foxes are removed, more will come in from surrounding suburbs. Some foxes have been trapped using soft-jaw traps (a tricky process) and GPS collars attached to track their movements.
Other non-native mammals seen in the park are domestic cats, rabbits, squirrels and, to the disbelief of Park staff: a goat! (After a long planning period, this individual was eventually trapped, removed and “sent to greener pastures”—meaning it went to a farm sanctuary.) A Carpet Python found in the park is thought to have been introduced also.
Reptile species in the park number 27. These include Dugites, monitors (Varanus gouldii), Bearded Dragons and Ctenotus skinks. The only amphibian found in the park’s bushland is the Turtle Frog (Myobatrachus gouldii), which lives in its deep burrow for most of its life. The male emerges and looks for a mate after summer rain.
In a study of the impacts of fire on the park’s reptiles, pitfall traps were set for ten years after a fire in 2009. One finding was that the West Coast Ctenotus prefers unburnt habitats, while the Bearded Dragon came out into the open, burnt areas where hunting was easier. Thus there are pros and cons of burning, depending on the species. Ryan says there is no conclusive research on how frequently Banksia woodland should be burnt. One consideration is that Banksia menziesii does not reach maturity until eight years after germination.
Over 90 species of bird have been recorded in the park. Red-tailed Black Cockatoos may be nesting there. Ospreys used to sit in a tree to eat fish they had caught in the river, but the tree was destroyed in the 2009 fire. They still find nesting material in the scarp vegetation and have a nest in a Norfolk Pine below the park. A study of birds in the park found that up to 60 per cent of species recorded would not cross Thomas Street into the suburban gardens. And of those that did, all collected nectar from the suburban gardens but not insects.
Invertebrates in the park include over 500 species of insect. There has been research within the park on such topics as the chemical ecology of the pollination of Pterostylis orchids by fungus gnats, sex-role reversal in bush crickets, and the co-evolution of genital morphology in millipedes. There are also studies of Mygalomorph (Trapdoor) spiders and communal Huntsman spiders. Tiny, weird creatures that live amongst mosses and lichens, called Water Bears or Tardigrades, have also been studied in the park.
All these research projects bring information to light which is not just interesting in its own right but has a bearing on bush management strategies in Kings Park (and beyond) such as weed control and prescribed burning.