AWC to partner with NSW Government in returning extinct mammals to NSW National Parks

AWC to partner with NSW Government in returning extinct mammals to NSW National Parks
Field Programs
Feral cat and fox control | Wildlife translocations
Bridled Nailtail Wallaby | Burrowing Bettong | Greater Bilby | Greater Stick-nest Rat | Numbat | Woylie

“The return of extinct mammals to NSW National Parks will be one of the greatest mammal conservation initiatives ever undertaken in Australia … a powerful demonstration of our commitment to reverse Australia’s mammal extinction crisis.”

- Tim Flannery (AWC Director)

5 June 2015: Bilbies, Numbats and other mammal species which are currently listed as extinct in NSW are set to be returned to the State’s National Parks under an historic partnership between Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and the NSW Government. 

The initiative will see “extinct” mammals returned to the State’s National Parks for the first time in NSW history.

The NSW Environment Minister, the Hon Mark Speakman MP, announced today that the NSW Government will enter into negotiations with AWC to establish large fox and cat-free areas in NSW National Parks, including the largest fox and cat-free area on mainland Australia. AWC is also set to deliver broader land management and science activities across these National Parks.

Within the feral-free areas – protected by specially designed conservation fences - “extinct” mammals including the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby, the Brush-tailed Bettong, the Western Barred Bandicoot and the Western Quoll, as well as the Bilby and the Numbat, can be reintroduced.

For the first time in more than a century, NSW National Parks will once again be home to some of Australia’s most iconic mammals.

Bilby _SCA2658_raw NX_s _acr _cr _eyescr

Greater Bilby

Bridled -nailtailyoung 

Bridled Nailtail Wallaby and young

AWC Chief Executive, Atticus Fleming, said that the partnership between AWC and the NSW Government will represent the urgent, on-ground action that is required to save Australia’s endangered mammals.

“This single initiative will play a critical role in saving at least 10 Australian mammals from extinction. Under AWC's proposal:

  • 2 species (Bridled Nailtail Wallaby and Western Barred Bandicoot) will have their remaining populations increased by more than 100%.
  • At least 6 other species (including the Bilby, Brush-tailed Bettong, Numbat and Greater Stick-nest Rat) will have their remaining populations increased by more than 15%.” 

“The project is is a ground-breaking example of collaboration between the non-profit sector and government to deliver exceptional outcomes for our endangered wildlife.” 

“The need for a project like this has never been greater.  Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world, with 30 native mammals extinct and around 60 species at risk of extinction.”

The greatest threat to Australia’s endangered mammals is predation by feral cats, along with foxes.  The impact of these feral predators means that most endangered mammals are continuing to decline.  For example:

  • the Numbat population is now less than 1,000 animals; and
  • the Brush-tailed Bettong has suffered a catastrophic recent decline from over 200,000 animals to less than 15,000 animals.

The large feral cat and fox-free areas to be established in NSW national parks will provide a secure refuge for new wild populations of endangered mammals.  In the longer-term, additional strategies will be developed with the aim of establishing endangered mammal populations outside these core areas and across national parks. 

Please help AWC return 10 extinct mammals to NSW National Parks

AWC is committed to co-investing with the NSW Government, which will invest several million dollars in this initiative, to secure the return of at least 10 extinct mammals to National Parks.  Your tax deductible donation to AWC will help us roll-out this ground-breaking initiative, building our capacity to deliver the on-ground feral animal control and world class science which underpins AWC’s unique approach to conservation. 


Donate Now

Stay tuned for further details – including an announcement identifying the National Parks where the initiative will be delivered - as AWC and NSW work together to finalise details of this historic partnership.

The NSW Government will also partner with the University of NSW in delivering this important initiative. 


For more information:  contact Atticus Fleming (0419 693 987) or Erica Young (0448 091 757).


A.    The mammal extinction crisis

  • Australia has the worst mammal extinction record in the world. 
  • In NSW:
    • 25 mammals are listed as extinct.
    • 59% of surviving mammal species are listed as threatened.
  • Many of Australia’s threatened mammals – including Bilbies, Numbats and Brush-tailed Bettongs – are continuing to decline.  For example, the Brush-tailed Bettong population has fallen by 90% in the last 15 years, from over 200,000 to less than 15,000. 

B.    The role of cats

  • Feral cats kill tens of millions of native animals every night across Australia.
  • Feral cats are widely acknowledged as the greatest threat to threatened mammals, along with foxes.  

C.    Why is this NSW Government initiative so important?

  • This initiative will see the return to NSW National Parks of at least ten mammal species which are listed as “Extinct” in NSW.  This will be the first time in NSW history that extinct mammals have been returned to the State’s national parks.
  • The mammals to be reintroduced will include Bilbies, Numbats, Brush-tailed Bettongs, Bridled Nailtail Wallabies, Western Barred Bandicoots, Burrowing Bettongs and Western Quolls.
  • The initiative will play a vital role in saving these species from extinction.  For example:
    • Australia’s Bilby population is now estimated at less than 10,000 animals.  The new feral-free areas in NSW could increase the global Bilby population by over 15% (1,500 animals).
    • Only 1,000 Numbats now remain in Australia.   The new feral-free areas in NSW National Parks could increase the population by up to 25% (250 Numbats). 
    • The initiative will double the existing Bridled Nailtail Wallaby population, supporting an increase of more than 3,000 animals.
  • Entering these feral-free areas will be like stepping back in time to experience the Australian bush as it was 200 years ago, before the arrival of foxes, cats and rabbits … alive with small native mammals. 

D.    What does the NSW initiative involve?

  • The initiative involves the establishment of large fox and cat-free areas, which will be embedded in selected NSW National Parks.
  • Each feral-free area will be surrounded by conservation fences which are designed to exclude cats, foxes and other feral animals.  
  • Following the removal of all feral animals, the “extinct” mammals can then be reintroduced into these secure areas. 
  • Each fenced area will support wild, self-sustaining populations of reintroduced mammals.
  • In the medium-long term, additional strategies will be developed with the aim of establishing endangered mammal populations outside these core feral-free areas (“beyond the fence”) and across the selected national parks.

E.     Why is conservation fencing required?

  • The establishment of large, fenced feral-free areas is the only option to ensure the safe reintroduction of highly endangered mammals such as those which are now “extinct” in NSW. 
  • Techniques such as baiting and shooting are not currently able to reduce cat numbers to a level that will allow the reintroductions of most of these mammal species (in the absence of a fence).
  • A 2013 Federal Senate Inquiry, supported by all sides of politics, specifically recommended that greater use be made of predator exclusion fencing.

F.     The track record of AWC

  • AWC owns and manages more land for conservation than any other non-government organisation in Australia:  we protect threatened wildlife across three million hectares in places like the Kimberley, the Top End, central Australia and western NSW.
  • Of particular relevance, AWC manages more feral predator-free land on mainland Australia than any other organisation (government or non-government).
  • AWC has established three substantial feral predator-free areas on mainland Australia, using conservation fencing, and is currently establishing a fourth such area:
    • Scotia, on the NSW/SA border, contains a feral predator-free area of 8,000 hectares.  This is the largest fox and cat-free area on mainland Australia.
    • Yookamurra, in South Australia, is 1,100 hectares.
    • Karakamia, in Western Australia, is 250 hectares.
    • Mt Gibson (under construction) in Western Australia will contain a feral predator-free area of 7,800 hectares. 
  • In addition, AWC manages the 5,000 hectare, world heritage-listed Faure Island (at the time of the feral eradication program, this was the third largest island in the world from which cats had been eradicated).
  • AWC has translocated over 3600 animals from 23 mammal species, into, out of, and between, eight AWC sanctuaries in more than 60 translocation events. 
  • Our feral predator-free areas have generated exceptional results.  For example:
    • The Numbat population has declined significantly in the last decade.  In contrast, the Numbat population on AWC (feral-free) land has increased to the point where we now protect almost 30% of the remaining population.
    • The population of Woylies in national parks has declined by 90% in the last decade.  During this time, the Woylie population on AWC (feral-free) land has increased.
    • The Bridled Nailtail Wallaby population in Queensland National Parks has decreased by over 75% in the last decade (to approximately 300).  In contrast, the population on AWC (feral-free) land has increased by over 1000% (to more than 2,000). 
  • AWC’s record was recently recognised by a Federal Senate Committee which stated:

The committee particularly commends the work of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and its impressive record of successful management of areas protecting a large number of threatened species, as well as its success in achieving substantial increases in the numbers of several nationally threatened species.

Report of the Senate Committee
“Effectiveness of threatened species and
ecological communities protection in Australia”

  • AWC is also carrying out the largest feral cat research project ever undertaken in Australia.  In doing so, we are playing a critical role in developing a strategy which will, in the medium-long term, enable the reintroduction of mammals outside fenced areas.