Echidnas draw a big crowd at City Hall for the last Up Close 2014 event

Sign courtesy of our resident artist (and Community Nursery Officer) Yvonne Riley!

120 people turned up to City Hall in Mount Gambier to show that echidnas aren’t the only ones digging our environment in the South East!

At the end of August we were lucky to play host to echidna expert Dr Peggy Rismiller and her partner, biologist Mike McKelvey for the final Up Close event for 2014! We’ve had a lot of fun with the Up Close program this year with events including a botanical illustration course, a butterfly ID day, an open day at Eaglehawk Waterhole, an SA marine life talk and a rockpool ramble.

Peggy and Mike made the big drive from the Pelican Lagoon Research Centre on Kangaroo Island to deliver an echidna-themed staff workshop, a public talk at City Hall on the Friday night, and a ‘tracks and traces’ ramble the next day. The big show on Friday night had a turnout of more than 120 people to hear Dr Rismiller’s talk about the strange and wonderful physiology and behaviour of both echidnas and Rosenberg’s goannas. The questions kept coming afterward, showing the great curiosity and affection that people have for our iconic native species.

Dr Peggy Rismiller at City Hall on Friday night

The crowd

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A group of around 20 backed it up by heading out for the ‘Ramble in Penambol’ the next morning, where Peggy and Mike (along with NGT ecologists) used their sharp eyes and amazing knowledge to decipher the various tracks and traces found along the Penambol Butterfly Walk.

The visit left us with an appreciation of the high value of long-term studies such as Peggy & Mike’s, and a message that we can’t take our eye off the ball… even species seemingly common like the echidna are susceptible to localised declines, and decreasing populations can have significant flow-on effects for their habitats.

In terms of goannas, Peggy also reminded us of the critical link that termite mounds play in incubating goanna eggs; hence, conservation of these wherever possible is absolutely crucial for existing populations… so let the mounds abound! If anyone has seen a goanna (either alive or dead) around the South East of SA or south western Victoria in the last few years, make sure to head to www.goannawatch.com.au to report the sighting and help to build the picture on their remaining populations.

Special thanks again to Peggy and Mike, and also to all that helped with the weekend’s events, including Cath, Bryan, Rose, Mark, Yvonne and Jess from NGT. We’ll keep you posted about upcoming environmental events, but in the meantime make sure to check out the Cross Border calendar here for more environmental happenings in Spring!

Peggy talks termite mounds at Penambol

And NGT’s Cath Dickson talks flora

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