Did you know that Australia is home to a rare, giant earthworm species? The Giant Gippsland Earthworm can grow up to 3m long, which grants it the title of the biggest earthworm species in the world!
The elusive species was described by Sir David Attenborough as the “rarest and most extraordinary of all earthworms”. That’s why the amazing people at Greenfleet are working so hard to protect this unusual national treasure!
Why Is The Giant Gippsland Earthworm So Special?
Besides its title of the biggest earthworm species in the world, the Giant Gippsland Earthworm is exceptionally unique for another peculiar reason. Okay, prepare yourself for this fact: According to Greenfleet, these giant earthworms are more often heard than seen, because these fascinating creatures make gurgling noises as they move through their tunnels under the surface of the soil. According to Dr Beverley Van Praagh — an ecologist who has studied the giant earthworm for almost 30 years — the farmers who originally discovered the earthworm in the 1870s thought it was a snake.
All in all, we actually know very little about these unique invertebrates. That’s because there are so few of them confined to an area of around 400 square kilometres in West Gippsland.
Photo: Instagram / @snakes_in-india
Why Is The Giant Gippsland Earthworm Endangered?
The survival of the Giant Gippsland Earthworm depends on one thing — moist soil. The higher rates of rainfall in Gippsland makes the habitat suitable for these animals, and generally, they’re found closer to creeks and riverbeds due to the damp soil.
Due to climate change, we already see more intense and frequent droughts. Extended periods of drought, and on the opposite side of the spectrum — flash flooding — have been known to negatively impact the giant earthworm’s population.
Human activities like road-making, dam building, deep ripping and trenching have been known to destroy their complex clay tunnels, which can span several hundred metres!
Greenfleet’s Reforestation Work In Gippsland
Not only is Greenfleet Building Koala Habitats In Gippsland — they’re also working to protect the rare earthworm’s habitat through their reforestation work.
When Greenfleet planted 26,000 native trees at Corymbia Farm in 2018, the team consulted Dr Beverley Van Praagh to ensure that the soil moisture remained consistent around the earthworm colonies in the presence of the newly planted trees.
According to Greenfleet, “Climate action is at the forefront of the work that we do and protecting threatened species such as the Giant Gippsland Earthworm is an important co-benefit of our reforestation efforts”.
“The forest at Corymbia Farm will be protected for 100 years and we hope that these incredible creatures can live there happily for generations to come,” Greenfleet says.
Before you go, check out this amazing (and super vintage) video of Sir David Attenborough discovering the Giant Gippsland Earthworm!
We’re so thankful for the extraordinary people at Greenfleet and their crucial reforestation work in the Gippsland region and beyond. You probably haven’t heard of the Giant Gippsland Earthworm, but this rare, underground national treasure is worth protecting.
Read about more Aussie conservation projects in our Eco News category and check out the blogs below.