There is a possibility new land acquisitions in a “conservation hotspot” could yield discoveries of orchids thought to be extinct in an area west of Bendigo.
Conservation group Bush Heritage Australia recently took possession of a land parcel near St Arnaud.
While small at 52 hectares, the patch of woodland is thought to be rich in critically endangered flora and fauna and sits in a region where non-for-profit groups have been buying up land to create nature havens.
Critically endangered species in the area include the red cross spider orchid, Stuart Mills spider orchid, woodland leek orchid.
They also include precious animals like the diamond firetail,the swift parrot, the hooded robin and even the odd koala.
Victorian reserve manager Jeroen van Veen said Bush Heritage plans to investigate exactly what is in the new patch and begin a wildlife management regime.
“We know the area can deliver some quite exciting surprises like new species of orchids that no-one has spotted as of yet. We do find species like that in the area,” he said.
That can include species thought extinct in the region or that are thought not to be suitable to local conditions.
Uncovering those kinds of finds may take some time. Drier conditions mean many wildflowers are not currently able to flower.
“They are holding off until they get a good year,” Mr van Veen said.
“We will find out the true extent of what is there once we get a proper season. At the moment the springs are so dry, so it will be a bit of a waiting game for a few years.”
In the meantime conservationists will clean up small patches of weeds and investigate what flora and fauna they can find.
“We will do some night surveys to see what the sugar glider population is like. Maybe we can find some greater gliders, brush-tailed phascogales or other mammals that live in the trees,” Mr van Veen said.
The ultimate goal is to accumulate enough land in the district to create a sanctuary large enough to stop a decline in biodiversity.
Land acquisitions have come about through a partnership between Bush Heritage Australia, Trust for Nature and the Kara Kara Conservation Management Network.
“There are also some landholders in the area who are conservation-minded and they have bought some land as well,” Mr van Veen said.
Bush Heritage Australia relies on donations for its worked and Mr van Veen said those who would like to know more should visit the group’s website.
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