Endangered moth given fighting chance thanks to Sunny Coast restoration project

31 May 2018

A community project to restore lowland rainforest habitat on the Sunshine Coast is set to provide the endangered pink underwing moth a much-needed lifeline.

For several years, a passionate group of residents known as Friends of Cahills Scrub (FOCS) have worked alongside experts to improve the condition of Cahills Scrub Reserve, a patch of lowland subtropical rainforest along London Creek at Peachester.

The restoration work is crucial because the reserve contains several significant rainforest species including carronia vine, a small collapsed shrub which is the ideal food source for the pink underwing moth.

If successful, the restored Cahills Scrub Reserve could become an ideal breeding ground for the notoriously elusive moth, which is only found in tiny pockets of lowland subtropical rainforest in northern NSW and South East Queensland. Sightings of the pink underwing moth in the Sunshine Coast region are rare, yet the moth is infamous in the ecologic community because of its unusual appearance.

Young pink underwing caterpillars are dull brown, but as the larvae matures they develop a chilling head display resembling two eyes and a large set of teeth. 

When fully mature, the moth possesses a brilliant array of pink and white spots on its large 14cm wingspan.

The project to restore the moth’s carronia vine habitat – a collaboration between FOCS, Sunshine Coast Council, Healthy Land and Water and the National Landcare Program – was launched in early 2017.

Since then, FOCS have worked alongside experts to remove remove weeds from the site, repair damaged sections of the habitat and plant dozens of native rainforest species.

Prior to the restoration work, the habitat had suffered due to the spread of invasive weeds and damage caused by illegal dumping, ongoing issues that posed a serious threat to the health of some of the Sunshine Coast's most important rainforest habitat. 

Recently, the community was invited to tour Cahills Scrub Reserve and witness the progress so far as part of an open day event.

FOCS volunteer Rhys Meyers - who oversees the project - and Sunshine Coast Council’s Brendan Stephen led attendees on a tour of the restoration site and pointed out many of the unique plant species that make the reserve such an important nature habitat.

Experts were also on hand to answer questions from the community and at the end of the tour, attendees enjoyed a sausage sizzle overlooking the newly-restored section of the reserve.

Healthy Land and Water Rural Catchment Northern Manager Bruce Lord heaped praise on the volunteers responsible for the work and said it was inspiring to return to Cahills Scrub Reserve and see firsthand the improvements in the environment.  

“These improvements are the result of the hard work of our wonderful community volunteers and a supportive council,” he said.

“Healthy Land and Water would like to thank Rhys and all of the FOCS members for their enthusiasm, dedication and hard work to help protect and enhance the biodiversity values of this significant patch of lowland subtropical rainforest.”

“We look forward to working with the FOCS group and Sunshine Coast Council on future restoration initiatives.”

The restoration project is ongoing and FOCS will help Sunshine Coast Council monitor the project site and perform selective weed control when required.