Whether you love to hear laughing kookaburras, or enjoy seeing possums in your backyard trees, protecting our native wildlife is something we should all invest in. Introduced plant and animal species, together with the clearing of habitats for housing and commercial development has impacted our environment significantly and as a result, made it increasingly difficult for native wildlife to survive as they compete for food and shelter. Sadly, this means that we see less and less of our native species as numbers decline and suitable habitats are pushed further and further back to less developed areas.
The good news is that we can all play a part in encouraging native wildlife back to the suburban sprawl and by doing a few simple things, we can help to keep them around for future generations to enjoy.
Plan your garden
It’s important to plan your garden so you can achieve a design which will match your location and climate along with your desired maintenance level and overall functionality.
To create an ideal microhabitat for native animals, think about creating different layers of vegetation in your garden that will provide shade and shelter from temperature and weather extremes. Start with groundcovers and grasses, through to low to medium height shrubs as well as dense shrubs that will provide protection for small birds. Trees ranging from small to tall is ideal to again create those multiple levels. The greater the number of layers, the greater the diversity of the flora.
Choosing the right trees and plants
Once you’ve got your design, make sure you select the right trees and plants. One of the best ways to encourage native wildlife into your yard is to plant native trees and plants that are suited to your local conditions – the climate, soil and rainfall.
Native species of flora will attract bees and butterflies and help pollinate your plants. Choose plants that produce seeds for food as well as those that produce nectar such as Banksia, Grevillea or Callistemon. Try to have something in flower all year round to provide food for a myriad of creatures.
Do your research and don’t just pick a random plant you don’t know anything about. Ask your local nursery for help or go online and do some homework about which native plants would suit your garden best.
Provide clean water and food
Like us, all animals require a healthy water source and good, nutritious food, so providing them with plenty will certainly increase your chances for wildlife sightings. A pond or bird bath can easily be incorporated into your garden’s design and can also be highly entertaining when the birds come for a splash! Rainwater is best, mains water is also fine to use but don’t give greywater to wildlife. Be sure to keep the water clean and free from any chemicals.
Your selection of native plants should provide wildlife with enough delicious seeds and nectar to keep them happy all year round and you shouldn’t need to provide additional food.
Bird feeders can be used to attract birds however it’s not recommended to consistently provide food to animals as they can become reliant on humans which can have detrimental consequences. Be responsible when it comes to giving any food to native animals – don’t give them anything processed which can make them sick and only give them occasional, small amounts of chopped fruits or vegetables.
Native Australian animals have the highest dependency on tree hollows in the world. Hollows are vital to life and are used for shelter, roosting and nesting by various animals such as possums, gliders, lizards, birds, frogs and insects. Mass clearing of native trees has devastated the numbers of natural hollows and in turn had serious repercussions on native wildlife. Luckily, these hollows can be created by trained Arborists who literally carve a hole into the tree without damaging it, creating a home for animals for years to come.
You can also have a bird, bat or possum box installed which can be placed high up and out of reach of people and other animals. Make sure the box is durable and suitable for the conditions.
Many creatures will call a fallen branch or log home, and rocks of varying sizes are perfect for insects and small lizards. Include some of these things in your garden to help your little habitat flourish.
Good soil, leaf litter and mulch provide a home for worms, insects and small lizards as well as the teeming number of microscopic organisms that break down and recycle dead matter and produce nutrients essential to the health of soil and plants.
Avoid using harsh chemicals
Harsh fertilisers and pesticides can harm and even kill wildlife as well as adversely affecting delicate eco-systems. Some of these chemicals take a long time to break down and degrade so build up in the soil and end up in the food chain. Animals eat poisoned animals who are then poisoned themselves and on it goes. Some species are especially susceptible to harsh chemicals and can suffer greatly if exposed to pollutants in their habitat. Look for alternatives – they’re available, and they won’t cause harm to the beautiful creatures you’ve worked hard to welcome. Or better still, don’t use them at all – there will be more delicious things for the birds to eat.
Keep pets inside
Believe it or not, your furry friend can be dangerous predators to native wildlife, so it’s best to try and keep them indoors where possible so that they aren’t hunting and killing native animals. Keep pet food inside the house so that wildlife aren’t drawn to it.