Home Among The Gum Trees: Hollowhog Helps Native Wildlife Rebuild After Bushfires

After the devastating Black Summer bushfires wiped out the habitats of countless native critters, cutting edge technology will build them new homes among the gum trees in Port Stephens.

In Australia alone 300 species of wildlife depend on hollows for nesting and habitation including mammals like quolls, possums and gliders, and even birds like parrots, owls, kookaburras, and some species of ducks.

But the 2019/20 bushfires destroyed 5.5 million hectares of tree hollows across the state, killing millions of animals and displacing many more.

Conservation biologist and Transport for NSW Environment Officer Matt Stephens has spent 10 years solving the problem of how to create durable homes for wildlife.

His new  invention, the Hollowhog, carves out small hollows for native wildlife to use for breeding, shelter and protection while leaving the tree alive and unharmed.

“It’s the first tool of its kind and combines hardened steel and tungsten carbide cutting blades to provide the safest and most efficient way to carve a large cavity through a small hole, meaning that the tree’s living parts are left intact,” Mr Stephens said.

                       Matt Stephens and the Hollowhog

It also cuts the natural process down to just minutes.

“In Eucalypt forests it takes about 70 to 120 years for a hollow that’s usable by wildlife to start forming in a tree. Now that’s a huge length of time when you consider how regularly out forests are disturbed,” Mr Stephens said.

So far the Hollowhog has created 800 new hollows across New South Wales with native animals investigating the new homes within days.

It’s a positive sign the hollows will see their first tenants soon.

“I’ve had feathertail gliders and the last ones I had were rainbow lorikeets,” Mr Stephens said.

“They’ve turned up and they’ll spend sometimes up to an hour sitting on the pech on the outside of the hollow, preening themselves and wandering in and out of the entrance, so I think it’s a really good sign they’re likely to use it.”

                    A hollow created by the Hollowhog

The hollows are located in trees across the state on public and private land, including protected Aboriginal land near Port Stephens, and Transport for NSW is offering training and employment opportunities to the Worimi indigenous community in the area.

In the meantime, Mr Stephens has big plans for the Hollowhog. He aims to continue working with government and conservation organisations, in Australia and around the world, to install more than one million hollows over the next few years.

“By actively looking to reintroduce hollows that’s how I think we’re going to have a big conservation gain from this,” Mr Stephens said.

                Hollows open for inspection