We are constantly surprised by the diversity of native animals on our doorstep, from kangaroo and wombat sightings along the Yarra River, to occasional visits from echidnas. Now we can add Sugar Gliders to the list.
After a Latrobe University student spotted this gorgeous marsupial in nesting hollows at Burke Road Billabong, we conducted a survey for the presence of Sugar Gliders at bush reserves and golf courses along the Yarra, setting up motion-triggered cameras among Eucalyptus and Wattle trees.
To attract the Sugar Gliders, an irresistible peanut butter and honey bait was secured in front of the cameras, while tree trunks and branches were drenched with a diluted honey spray.
While we knew Sugar Gliders lived in bushland areas across the Yarra River, their last recorded sighting in Boroondara dated back to 1986. The latest surveys captured Sugar Gliders on camera at Willsmere Reserve, Yarra Flats Reserve, the Freeway Golf Course and Green Acres Golf Course.
The secret life of Sugar Gliders
These shy, nocturnal creatures live in large family groups and rely on very old trees that have developed nesting hollows, where they can safely raise their young. With a membrane between their front and hind legs that acts like a parachute, they can glide long distances to gather nourishment from Acacia gum, insects, Eucalypt sap and pollen.
And here’s a fascinating fact for your next quiz night: Sugar Gliders also possess the ability to go into a brief hibernation-like state called torpor to survive adverse climatic conditions such as very cold weather and extreme storms to cope with a decline in food availability.
So how can we and the community help protect and enhance the local habitat for Sugar Gliders? A report compiled from the survey results recommends planting Acacia species (central to the Sugar Glider diet), additional planting to link habitat patches, and installing artificial nest boxes.
Local residents can do their bit by keeping cats indoors at night and gardening with native plants local to the area.
Sugar Gliders are rare so close to the city. By protecting them in Boroondara, we can help bolster numbers and encourage their expansion along the Yarra River into other areas.
The Sugar Glider survey was an action from Council’s Urban Biodiversity Strategy 2013–2023, supporting the restoration, protection and enhancement of the City’s natural environment.