Mt Gibson Sanctuary -Wildlife
Western Saddled Gecko – Mt Gibson Sanctuary
Mt Gibson Sanctuary contains elements of both the Southwest botanical province, and the Eremean (or arid zone) province, due to its unique transitional location on the ‘mulga-eucalypt line’. For example, both the Red Kangaroo, that occurs in the drier inland areas of Australia, and the Western Grey Kangaroo that occurs in the more mesic Southwest are found in the area. The Sanctuary also provides remnant habitat for wildlife that previously occurred in the now almost completely cleared ‘wheatbelt’ region of Western Australia . For example, many birds that are now rare in the wheatbelt such as the Malleefowl, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, and Regent Parrot, find refuge in the expansive Eucalypt Woodlands of Mt Gibson Sanctuary.
AWC supported the first intensive biological survey of the Mt Gibson Sanctuary in 2001. Specialist zoologists and botanists from the Western Australian Museum, South Australian Museum, Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management, and AWC staff, spent two weeks documenting the biodiversity of Mt Gibson.
The native bee fauna perhaps best illustrates the incredible biodiversity found at Mt Gibson. More than 100 species were collected by South Australian Museum staff, and of these, over half were undescribed. Most of the species were from a single family (Colletidae) that is known to be active in early spring. A vast number of additional species from other families will no doubt be discovered when further surveys are conducted at different times of the year.
Why the bee fauna in the area is so diverse is unknown, but reasons probably include Mt Gibson’s position on the transition line, in conjunction with the remarkable diversity of flowering plants, predominantly from the southwest botanical province. A scarcity of feral European honeybees may also be a significant factor.
Seventeen native mammals were known to occur in the vicinity of Mt Gibson Sanctuary, including Mitchell’s Hopping-mouse and the Little Long-tailed Dunnart. A sub-fossil search of the property, incorporated into the biological survey design, revealed evidence of an additional 18 mammal species, bringing the total past mammal fauna of the area to at least 35 species. Many of these are now either regionally extinct or threatened with extinction, in particular the medium-sized ground dwelling mammals. The sub-fossil material indicated a predominantly southwest fauna, underscoring the biological value of the habitat retained on Mt Gibson Sanctuary given the immense clearing undertaken in the adjacent southwest ‘wheatbelt’ region. AWC will attempt to re-establish some of these threatened species at the Mt Gibson Sanctuary.