Design and create a rewilding program for threatened small mammal species in the Otways. Develop a roadmap and costed implementation framework for rewilding

Rewilding threatened species in the Otway Ranges – Stage 1

The Rewilding project will be designed to create the required conditions to support the reintroduction/rewilding of one or more lost and/or sparse threatened small mammal species important to the Otway Ranges. The project is to strategically focus on critical refuge areas for small mammals, and will be designed and implemented with involvement from relevant technical specialists (e.g. Universities, Zoos Victoria, NGOs, consultancies, land management agencies) to ensure the project outcome can be achieved.

The Desktop study will focus on a synthesis of key material from a rewilding literature and policy review as well as consideration of existing datasets and monitoring. It will address the status of target species within the project, key threats for selected species and landscape variability, species habitat identification and suitability, an overview of current land management practices, analysis of options and opportunities for rewilding in particular locations, landscapes or habitat types, and consideration of relevant policy and strategy and options for monitoring candidate species.
Stage 1 will focus on undertaking a Desktop feasibility study and high-level planning and decision framework to inform Stages 2 and 3. Only Stage 1 has been procured to date.

A comprehensive list of candidate species of all small (critical weight-range) mammals known to be found in the project area will be assessed against habitat suitability, preliminary species threat assessment, availability of species for potential reintroduction from captive or wild populations and potential for negative interactions between species (e.g. competition, predation). This will be refined to a short list of candidate species following assessment.

An expert workshop including scientific and technical experts will critique and refine the conclusions of the desktop study and contribute to the development of the Rewilding Decision Matrix (RDM).

The RDM will be applied to the short list of candidates, and a detailed assessment undertaken to identify the preferred candidate for rewilding.  This will include consideration of detailed habitat suitability assessment, including identification of high priority locations/areas for rewilding; options for soft-release, hard release or simulated release, options for different levels of threat management, and the inclusion of costs.

The results of the RDM assessment will inform (in Stage 2) the detailed planning for a small portfolio of projects that make up the Rewilding Implementation Plan. This portfolio will be a feasibility and cost evaluation of combinations (species x locations x release x management scenario). Achieving multi-species objectives that contribute to restoration of ecological processes will be an important consideration.

The project will deliver a final report that includes a plain English Executive Summary, a full report on outcomes from the study, and key recommendations to inform Stage 2 (Rewilding Implementation Plan) and Stage 3 (Execution of Implementation Plan).

Delivery & Supporting Partners

The project team will be led by Dr Jack Pascoe (Conservation and Research Program, Conservation Ecology Centre) and includes Mark Le Pla (Conservation Ecology Centre and University of Melbourne), Dr Bronwyn Hradsky (University of Melbourne), Professor Brendan Wintle (University of Melbourne), Jacinta Langdon (Barongarook Pest and Weed); Dr Barbara Wilson and Dr Mark Garkaklis (Barbara Wilson Pty Ltd), and Dr Phoebe Burns (Zoos Victoria).

Linkages With Other Sub-Projects

This project links directly with the Small Mammal Conservation Project through its  targeted research assessing the diet of feral cats and foxes in the Otway Ranges, the potential of mesopredator release in the Eastern Otways and the installation and operationalisation of artificial refuges post-fire.  Conservation Ecology Centre (CEC) and Barbara Wilson Pty. Ltd. are represented on both project delivery teams.

Working through and with EMAC, the project provides opportunity for Traditional Owners to have direct input into how their country is managed; this will link with the Pig and Deer Management Project in which Traditional Owners will work with the project team to identify cultural assets to be protected.

Frequently Asked Questions:

The Australian Government’s Wild Otway initiative is a three-year $6m commitment towards threatened species management and pest animal control in the greater Otway’s region. The Initiative includes the delivery of a broad and inclusive environmental community grants program and five commissioned sub-projects, which include pig and deer eradication, fox and cat management, Phytophthora (a plant pathogen) management, small mammal conservation and rewilding in the Otways.

Australian Government Wild Otways Initiative website page will be updated regularly with more information when the on-ground works begin. Our CCMA media channels will also be an outlet for project updates. If you would like to receive our regular project Communique please subscribe below to be apart of our distribution below.


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The project area for the initiative covers the area from Jan Juc/Bells Beach to Peterborough, and the Great Otway National Park and hinterlands (Otways Region) in South West Victoria.

The initiative will be delivered in the Greater Otways region of Victoria over the next three years to June 2023.

This project is support by the Corangamite CMA, through funding from the Australian Government’s Environment Restoration Fund. This project will run until 2023.

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