One way to compensate for the lack of hollows is to install nest boxes. To demonstrate their effectiveness to our local community, we secured a grant to purchase and install nest boxes at our son’s primary school. We attached them to trees within the school grounds, and talked to the children about how important tree hollows are and the types of animals the boxes might attract.
Just a few weeks later, we checked the nest boxes and, to the delight and amazement of the whole school community, we found a family of very cute sugar gliders huddled together in a leafy nest in one of the boxes.
Sugar gliders are very social animals and share nests in suitable tree hollows with up to seven family members. They emerge at night and launch themselves from the treetops, gliding between the trees using a flap of skin stretched tight between their extended fingers and toes. They feed on nectar, insects and sweet acacia gum, and eucalyptus sap licked from gashes made in tree trunks.
Sugar glider families live in and defend a territory of up to 2.5ha. The dominant male marks family members and territorial boundaries with a scent produced by glands on his forehead, chest and the base of his tail. Intruders without the correct smell are chased away. When young are 7-10 months old and able to forage for themselves, the males and some young females are forced out of the family territory. Suitable habitats are scarce, and few survive, so it’s great to have provided a home for one family of sugar gliders.
An owlet nightjar, a possum and microbats have since taken up residence in other nest boxes. The next step is to install nest box cameras and transmit real-time images to the classrooms.
When there’s a bad smell in the backyard, it’s easy to think an animal has died behind some bushes. This may be so, but before you start rummaging, check the flowers. Some have a downright nasty odour in order to get pollinated, such as Persian carpet flowers (Edithcolea grandis) and starfish flowers (Stapelia grandiftora). There are many species in the Stapelia genus and nearly all of them have a smell that ranges from dead prawns to dead mammals.
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