Gippslanders and visitors are being urged to do their bit to protect native animals in and around the Gippsland Lakes in the lead up to World Wildlife Day on Friday 3 March.
C0-Chair of the Gippsland Lakes Coordinating Committee, Angus Hume, said everyone could play a part in protecting wildlife, and small changes to behaviour could make a big difference.
“The Gippsland Lakes are home to about 300 native wildlife species, including a wide range of iconic and threatened species,” Mr Hume said.
“The Lakes and neighbouring wetlands are listed as Ramsar sites of international environmental significance.
“They provide a vital feeding ground for migratory birds that travel from as far away as Siberia and the Arctic Circle, they’re a resting and breeding ground for 86 waterbird species, and they’re home to endangered species including the rare Burrunan Dolphin, spotted-tailed quoll, and growling grass frog.
“We all need to work together to help protect and conserve these important species.”
Mr Hume said simple steps such as keeping dogs on leashes, disposing of rubbish correctly, and taking care while boating and walking were just some things people could do to help protect local wildlife.
“Shorebirds rely on a healthy Gippsland Lakes system and minimal disturbances for their survival, but they’re under increasing pressure from dogs, feral animals and even boat wake as they are extremely sensitive and easy to spook,” Mr Hume said.
“Keeping dogs on leashes and not walking in areas where shorebirds are nesting is one easy way to protect waterbirds.
“Taking care while boating is also important, not just for shorebirds, but for the rare Burrunan Dolphin.”
The Burrunan Dolphin is perhaps the Gippsland Lakes’ most iconic species. It was only identified as a separate species to the common Bottlenose Dolphin in 2011 and there are just two known populations of Burrunan Dolphin in the world – a population of about 50 in the Gippsland Lakes, and a population of 100 in Port Phillip Bay.
“People can still enjoy the wonderful experience of dolphin-watching, but boats should stay at least 100 metres away from the dolphins to ensure their safety,” Mr Hume said.
“You can also help protect dolphins and other marine life when you’re on land by removing litter and making sure fishing lines are not left behind to create a hazard.”
Sticking to walking tracks and taking care not to damage vegetation is another way of protecting threatened species such the Green and Golden Bell Frog and the Growling Grass frog, Mr Hume said.
“If everyone plays their part, we can help ensure these species not only survive, but thrive into the future.”
World Wildlife Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2013. It is now in its fourth year.