Under the cover of darkness a small, furry animal emerges from the hollow of a eucalypt. It has a pointed nose, keen eyes, and – to quote Colin Cook, the president of the Friends of Brisbane Ranges – ‘a tail like a dunny brush’. It is a Brush-tailed Phascogale.
Few people have heard of the Brisbane Ranges, let alone been there. This small national park to the west of Melbourne is easy to miss on a map, and given its obscurity it is perhaps fitting that the park be a stronghold for this equally obscure marsupial. Phascogales – or Tuans – have suffered heavily from the introduction of exotic predators and habitat fragmentation. So, when a fire raged through one of their remaining refuges in 2006 the local friends group were quick to realise the severity of the situation. Phascogales need hollows – both to breed in and to use for shelter – but this intense bushfire had suddenly made hollow-bearing trees a real rarity.
The solution was easy enough in theory: get some funding and build some nest-boxes to replace lost hollows. But a small friends group would take a long time and a lot of late nights to build enough nest-boxes to make a difference to the phascogale’s plight. Fortunately, the VCAL students of Wyndham Central College were up to the challenge. These teens have fallen in love with this little-known park and its furry inhabitants, becoming a class of Community Conservationists and building more than 70 nest-boxes to help the phascogale.