Artificial tree hollows designed to house displaced wildlife
Of all the things that merit a high-tech makeover, you would think that the humble bird-nesting box didn't need one. A new 3D-printed version, however, could go a long way towards restoring threatened species in the Australian wilderness.
When a series of huge bushfires ravaged the Australian countryside this year and last, an estimated 3 billion animals were either killed or displaced. Not only that, but a great number of naturally occurring tree hollows were destroyed – a wide variety of birds, along with other small animals, make their homes in such hollows.
While the deployment of traditional wooden nesting boxes certainly would help provide new homes for the surviving wildlife, such boxes aren't nearly as insulated as the hollows, so they provide little protection from the midday heat. Additionally, while the hollows may last for a century or longer, the lifespan of a wooden bird box is typically no more than about 10 years.
With these limitations in mind, scientists at Australia's Charles Sturt University have created 3D-printed plastic nesting boxes that are similar in size, shape and appearance to the natural tree hollows. They feature a double-walled design that gives them thermal insulating qualities much like those of their natural counterparts, and they should last at least as long as real tree hollows.
In field tests conducted so far, wild red-rumped parrots were found to readily accept the boxes as nesting sites. Plans now call for the devices to be mounted on trees throughout various regions of Australia, where they will be available to displaced birds or other animals. They will be manufactured out of 100-percent recycled plastic by the company Habitech Ltd, starting later this year.
"With the recent bushfires, natural hollows are now vanishingly rare across entire regions and are in very high demand," says the lead scientist, Prof. David Watson. "At a time when we’re trying all kinds of different approaches to rebuild wildlife populations, large-scale installations of nest boxes and other artificial structures are a crucial element."
Source: Charles Sturt University