Hollows for the homeless
1 May 2018
Tree hollows all around Australia are disappearing. And that means that the animals that depend on them are disappearing too. The Cumberland Plain Woodlands that make up a significant proportion of Western Sydney Parklands are suffering the same fate. With at least 93 species or at least 60 per cent of all animals living in the Woodlands needing a tree hollow at some point in their life. It’s quite amazing. So, what can we do?
Environmental managers at Western Sydney Parklands are addressing this shortage by creating artificial hollows for the homeless animals under their care. Routine maintenance, such as removing dead, injured or infected limbs, and pruning trees for the sake of visibility are now considered by the Trust as good opportunities to create hollows for native animals.
Just like people, animals have different tastes in homes. So the Trust has identified a range of hollow types that can be created for different animals. Some species like to enter hollows from below; others like to come in from above. In time, a variety of hollows will be available for the many species that use tree hollows, such as possums, sugar gliders, kookaburras, parrots, microbats, and even frogs – they’re called tree frogs for a reason!
The cut timber from the fallen limbs is also put to good use. It’s used as natural debris on the woodland floor, creating more ground cover habitat for ground-dwelling animals such as echidnas and reptiles.
In the wild, it takes about 50 years for trees to form hollows naturally. They occur when a tree drops its limb to balance its weight or when struck by lightning. Once the tree limb experiences this trauma, it becomes vulnerable to attack from insects such as termites and beetles, as well as fungi and bacteria. Over time, the inner wood of the branch is hollowed out and then used and renovated by a variety of animals, often expanding in size.
Many trees in the Parklands were planted in the early 1990s so they’re only around 28 years into the hollow-making process. By creating artificial hollows, wildlife managers can provide short-term accommodation to struggling wildlife while their permanent home is being slowly but surely regenerated.