26 February 2009

Seeds of Change

"In the Heart of a Seed

Lies the Creation

of a Thousand Forests"

9 January 2009

the Mahogany Glider & Friends

This amazing rare and endangered 'gliding' possum was lost to science for over 100 years. Until 1989, when i was just a 3 year old, the exciting re-discovery of a Mahogany Glider, or 'Moggy' (Petaurus gracilis) was made just north of Cardwell.

The 'Moggy' distribution is highly fragmented, having lost 80% of their habitat to sugar cane, banana and forestry plantations, they now survive in a thin strip of lowland swampy coastal woodland, from the Tully river down past Cardwell to Ingham.

<- http://www.wildcardart.com.au/ (Daryl Dickons Artwork)

Just like so many other Australian mammals, our modern way of life has been nothing short of devestating for the eco-systems and habitats they need to survive; from the desert interior out west to the lush lowland rainforest of the eastern ranges, few of our critters are immune to this destructive Industrial growth society.

An estimated 24 mammals have become extinct in Australia, and many more have suffered dramatic range restrictions, fragmentation and ongoing habitat degradation.

Australia's most endangered glider is now at risk of extinction, with an estimated population of just 1500 individuals, separated into 5 sub-populations around Cardwell, an area of Northern Queensland's wet-tropics that contains the unique lowland swampy woodland habitat requirements it needs for food and shelter.

The 'Moggys' sleep in any one of their 10 or so hollows found in oldgrowth Bloodwoods, Stringybarks and Poplars (Eucalyptus/Corymbia species) where they come out at night to feed on the nectar and pollen of the Grass Trees (Xanthorea johnsonii) and several species of Acacia and Eucalypts. They will also venture into Melaleuca Wetlands when the flowers are on.

Melaleuca wetlands

If you're not aware of what a 'Glider' is, then click on the link below to see some footage of the Mahogany Glider in action. It's basically a possum that has evolved a thin skin membrane between the front and hind limbs, which allows it to 'Glide' through the air between trees.

And so it was with great excitement when I had my first encounter with another one of my long lost relatives, The Mahogany Glider, at my friends, Geoff & Daryls place, in the Kennedy Valley.

They are true nature lovers who live on one of the few uncleared houseblocks in the area, a haven for such an interesting variety of creatures, including the Double-eyed fig parrot, Agile Wallaby and Striped Possums.

Striped possum (Dactylopsila trivirgata)

The first captive-bred Mahogany glider to return to the wild was successfully released on their property, over two years ago. With Daryl and Geoffs help, 'Stoney' has survived the threat of deadly predators looking for a feed, such as Rufous Owls and Amethystine Pythons. Not to mention the competition from other male Moggy's.

'Stoney' first captive bread released Mahogany Glider

And so it happened after dinner one night at Daryl and Geoff's place, He flew down from the surrounding canopy onto the veranda and made his way scuffling across the floor. What excitement to see this Glider up close, and a truly special one too. Such a super sensitive little creature, not looking altogether at home on the ground. I was in shock, what a beautiful animal, its gliding membrane all curled up as it nibbled on some food supplements.

This began the next chapter in my involvement with Mahogany Glider, and wanting to learn more about 'Moggys', Daryl put me onto a Mahogany glider research team lead by 'Ben' and some conservation international volunteers. I had the absolute privledge of going out one evening and experiencing hands on field work. Setting traps and tracking radio-tagged gliders.

the magical and oh-so-sugary 'red cordial bate'

setting the last traps for the night

We came back early in the morning and 4 of the traps had 'Moggy' Gliders in them

They are surprisingly calm and content when snuggled up in the bags

see the gliding membrane all curled up

'nnnawww, such cute little creatures

Ben taking weight measurements

we are one

It was so heartwarming to see that other people are aware of the Glider and that there is work being done to understand more about their status and fragmentation resilience.

Though I still feel the most essential work that needs to be implemented is the establishment of a regional Mahogany Glider corridor network, to link up all the fragment habitat and connect isolated populations to one another.

The Glider awareness has been reaching MSM (Main-Stream Media) thanks to the efforts of people like Daryl & Geoff and Margaret Thorsborne, who are commited to raising the public profile of this rare earthling and getting government to take action on our Endangered species.

Rare mahogony glider headed for extinction, says conservationists

The awareness is now at the point where those with the power to make a difference, local, state and federal government, must listen to the community feedback and follow up on implementing the strategies outlined in the recovery program, if they don't start to really WALK the TALK, another one of our unique life-forms is gone forever....

So my experience with the gliders hasn't been without feelings of 'despair' and 'ambivalence'.

As some of you may know, I'm currently working on a Property Devolopment just north of Cardwell. The job involves planting out a riparian habitat 'corridor' through the middle of the property, planting fruit tree and bushfood on the house lots and general onground land management, which is a project that I have mixed feelings about.

Collecting seed, restoring biodiversity, creating habitat... I live for this stuff

creek bed stabilization, the area to the right now has a decent flow to it.
planting a variety of riparian species
Biotropica mob up at Tully doing direct seeding and tree planting research

Blue Lily (Syzygium oleosum) that I collected in my first week, ready to tube up

Planting back home in the Gully

but there's always two sides to every coin ~

And thus the recent realization that half of this property development was cleared by the previous owner just a few years ago was deeply shattering, especially when discovering that one of the neighbours recalls seeing a dead Mahogany Glider about 10 years ago, probably eaten by a cat.

yes, i cried. : (

The feeling set in, It is as if my job is to play the role of a doctor or a nurse, where a close friend of mine is getting her legs amputated and my role is to patch it up with band-aids.

I don't want to be a doctor and treat the symptom, I want to be a healer and cure the disease ~ and the disease is so blatantly obvious. The cause of all this destruction in the world today comes back to the illusion of separation that we all experience, which is perpetuated by a society that puts selfish individual material progress over the collective evolution and all-inclusive development of the whole system we are apart of.

this article by Jean Hudon says it all.

From the moment of our birth till the last breath of Life pulsating in the body of flesh given to us for this short period of evolution in the realm of matter, we live under the shadow of the Supreme Illusion, the most formidable obstacle to our awakening that has ever existed: the Illusion of Separation. Separation from the maternal womb, separation from other people, separation from the things we see around us. Later during our life, we learn to disconnect ourselves from our emotions, to develop a rational mind, to cast a cold and distant glance at the miseries and sufferings of this world. And we may even finally cut ourselves from the most important part of our being, from our soul, and, often pushed by an hostile environment, create a rigid and dogmatic set of mind perpetually striving to protect the selfish interests of this hard core of pre-set ideas and opinions we call "ego".

Then, most of the rest of our life is a struggle to find again a balance between the inner aspiration to Peace and harmony we continually feel and the endless contradictions of a lifestyle and behavior patterns dictated by the intransigent domination of this self-created ego. This ingrained system of protection of our self-identity in the face of a "hostile" world has all sorts of hidden mechanisms that are triggered by the slightest direct finger-pointing to vigorously assert its domination over the entire conduct of our life. Even thinking about such things as "ego domination" is enough to trigger a strong resistance reaction so as to protect its integrity, which, in a sense, is a normal reaction given the nature of the ego, camouflaged as it is inside the very fabric of our awareness.

This built-in system of self-protection is a common occurrence resulting from the present nature of our entire social paradigm which fosters the individualistic values of personal achievement through diplomas, wealth and fame over the spiritual values of Self-development, sharing and humility. In times past, when the human civilization was less developed and complex, the aboriginal societies, living in close harmony with the land and other life forms were much more connected with the Web of Life and thus less entrapped within the Illusion of Separation as we are today. The following excerpt of a declaration made by the Chief Seattle in 1854 is a good example of this awareness of Unity with all Life shared by the American Indians of this time...

"Every part of this Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sanding shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man. We are part of the Earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat on the pony, and man -- all belong to the same Family. (...) Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know, the Earth, does not belong to man; man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of Life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

As we go on today, collectively devastating the Earth on an unparralled scale, we are proving by the absurd the validity of this ancient perception of our place and role in the community of Life. We are destroying the fragile balance, established after billions of years of slow progress, between the unrelenting efforts of Life to take hold on this once barren planet and the sheer forces of entropy counteracting permanently to bring things back to their simplest mineral and chemical expressions. We are simply killing ourselves... This is the ultimate result of a civilization dominated by the Illusion of Separation.

Fortunately, in the late sixties we began to see the emergence of a movement calling for a return to simpler values, more in harmony with the natural rhythms and laws of Life, and eventually leading to the ecological movement of the 80's and 90's. Yet, the old dominant paradigm still exerts a considerable influence and threatens, if not quickly changed, to create a traumatic setback to the evolution of Life on planet Earth. And the key of this change... is in each one of us (Be the change you want to see in the world/

Dissolving this Illusion of Separation is our greatest challenge and our best opportunity to shift from a world of violent competition, war, pollution and despair, to a world of gentle cooperation, peace, harmony and hope. And again, Love is the only force that can change the world... and ourselves. Love within us first, for if we cannot feel Love within us, we cannot feel Love for others. Then Love for all the other human beings, no matter how different they are, for what really matters is not the outside but the inside: the same human body, the same feelings, the same desire to love and be loved. And above all, the same Life animating all our cells... and the cells of all the other Life forms on this planet and everywhere in the universe. This sacred bond of Love is what makes the Illusion of Separation just that... an illusion.
Nothing is separated from anything. All is ONE!...