Why 163 critically endangered snails had to be moved
SIGNIFICANT data on the critically endangered Mitchell's Rainforest Snail has been collected during the construction of the Byron Bay bypass.
Extensive snail surveys were conducted as part of the clearing of a 1.5 hectare area of habitat.
The snail is listed as a critically endangered species under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Byron Shire Council project engineer Josh Winter said the search for the snails ahead of the clearing work was thorough.
This resulted in the relocation of 163 Mitchell's Rainforest Snails.
"The work that was done to locate the snails prior to clearing work was extensive, as it needed to be because we want to do everything we could to minimise the impact of the road on the Mitchell's Rainforest Snail, as well as other species," Mr Winter said.
"We engaged a team of independent ecologists who were onsite for three weeks and spent more than 600 hours surveying the area for snails."
He said the ecologists completed daytime and night-time surveys, which began two weeks before the clearing work.
They checked leaf litter, around trees, roots and hollow logs and they stripped the bark off trees in the search for the snails.
Each snail found had his weight, size and age recorded and they were moved to nearby wetland.
"To find so many snails was an excellent result and testament to the thoroughness of our surveys," Mr Winter said.
"When we started seeking environmental approvals for this project back in 2015, independent surveys found no snails but we always assumed they would be there and that is why we took such precautions and care with our pre-clearing surveys and we have been rewarded.
"As part of the construction of the bypass we will be building a fauna underpass to connect the wetlands and this will be lined with leaf litter, logs and soil so the snails can move between areas.
"It was exciting to find so many Mitchell's Rainforest Snails and the information we have collected will no doubt be valuable for future projects and scientific purposes."
For more on the bypass and the clearing process visit the council's website www.byron.nsw.gov.au/bypass.