Nifty trap lifts the lid on the elusive burrowing crayfish
17 April, 2012
Researchers from the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s (DSE) Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) have devised a trap that improves detection and capture of the elusive Burrowing Crayfish.
The researchers extensively modified an existing trap design to come up with an effective burrowing crayfish trap for a fire recovery project which examined the impact of the 2009 bushfires on Burrowing and Spiny Crayfish.
ARI Project team Scientist Di Crowther said: “The focus of the project was in Gippsland, which is home to a number of threatened crayfish species and was affected by the 2009 bushfires.”
“A new trapping method was needed for Burrowing Crayfish because traditional methods, such as excavation, are time consuming and result in damage to their habitat and burrows,” Ms Crowther said.
“Leading a mostly subterranean existence means Burrowing Crayfish are difficult animals to observe and the only sign that they are around is usually their telltale burrow entrances.”
“The modified trap enables us to capture crayfish at their burrow entrances so we can record relevant information and then return the unharmed animal back into its intact burrow.”
“If we were using the traditional techniques we couldn’t have learned as much as we have about these elusive creatures.”
“The modified traps have been used to survey other species of Burrowing Crayfish in Victoria and are also likely to be used to survey Burrowing Crayfish elsewhere in Australia.
“There has already been interest in Western Australia for example.”
“Burrowing Crayfish play an important role in our environment. They are a crucial part of the food web and are suggested to play a role in improving soil condition”
“The research found Burrowing Crayfish were able to survive the fires and will provide data that can be used as a benchmark for future research on the group.”
The project was funded by the Victorian and Commonwealth governments “Rebuilding Together’ – Statewide Bushfire Recovery plan, launched in October 2009.
The Victorian Government has a responsibility under the Wildlife Act 1975 and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 to protect threatened species. These animals and plants contribute significantly to the biodiversity of their ecosystems. The knowledge we acquire about these species helps us to then take the on-ground steps needed to ensure their survival.