Conserving a local treasure

Locals will get a chance to help conserve one of the nation’s most remarkable endangered creatures that lives in Castlemaine’s  Kalimna Reserve.
Two upcoming public monitoring walks to assess numbers of eltham copper butterfly come as local scientists call for comprehensive surveys of the remarkable and nationally endangered creature.
Members of the Concerned Ecologists and Residents of the Box group like ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just say such studies are needed to inform best management practices of the ECB’s local habitat.
In particular they want to see any fuel reduction practices for Kalimna informed by proper data and scientifically sound studies.
They’re calling on state policy makers, including the environment minister and the MP for Bendigo West to help ensure this happens.
“There’s hardly been any ecological studies looking at the impact of controlled burns at all, although it was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission,” Ms Bayes says.
“We’re not saying do not burn, but rather to look at fuel reduction options with regard to this highly endangered species.
“We want to be protected from wildfire with best practice, scientifically based knowledge that is relevant to the box ironbark.”
The ECB is known to survive in only three sites in Victoria including Kalimna.
In a remarkable symbiotic relationship that parallels the way in which human beings farm dairy cows, the ECB caterpillars are cared for by ants who in return ‘milk’ sugary secretions from them.
But central to this relationship that’s worthy of a sci-fi novel, is the rare sweet bursaria plant on which the ECB larva relies for food.
Local ecologists fear planned burning may threaten the ECB’s chances of survival and may not be the best way to protect either box ironbark forests like Kalimna, or key assets like Castlemaine either.
“We just want to see it done properly, more of a scientific response,” Karl says.
They say all are welcome to participate in the ECB monitoring walks which are being run by Connecting Country from 1-3pm on January 12 and February 16.
The data recorded will be used to help build the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.
In the meantime interested members of the public are encouraged to take a walk in Kalimna Reserve, keep an eye out for the ECB and record locations of any sightings.
“They can bring what they record along to the monitoring walks,” Elaine says.
More information is available from Connecting Country.

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