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Initially established by our founder, Martin Copley, Karakamia became AWC’s first wildlife sanctuary. Covering 275 hectares in the Jarrah Forest Bioregion, Karakamia is surrounded by a special purpose conservation fence and is completely feral predator-free. In the absence of foxes and cats, Karakamia hosts one of the most significant remaining wild populations of the critically endangered Woylie.
As well as the Woylie, Karakamia hosts important populations of other threatened and declining mammals including the Tammar Wallaby, the Quenda and the Common Brushtail Possum. The critically endangered Western Ringtail Possum has also been reintroduced to Karakamia and persists as a small population. The property contains a diversity of habitats – such as Jarrah forest and Marri and Wandoo woodland – supporting a high number of bird and reptile species. It is named for the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (“Karak”), one of three species of black cockatoo found on the property.
In addition to playing a regionally significant role in the conservation of threatened mammals, the property also hosts a public education program. AWC staff take guided nocturnal walks, introducing guests to the Australian bush as it was nearly 200 years ago (before the arrival of feral predators) – a bush that was alive with small mammals such as the Woylie!
Karakamia provides a powerful example of the benefits to wildlife that occur when feral predators are eradicated. When first acquired, Karakamia Sanctuary was home to a limited range of native mammals including the Echidna, Western Grey Kangaroo, Common Brushtail Possum, and Western Brush Wallaby. As is currently the case with many National Parks in the region, the small-medium sized mammals were missing.
The establishment of a feral-proof fence around Karakamia in 1994 – and the permanent eradication of foxes and cats - has enabled the reintroduction of wild populations of key mammal species including the Woylie, the Quenda, and the Tammar Wallaby. A number of species present in the region, including the Western Pygmy-possum and Mardo (Yellow-footed Antechinus) have also benefited from this predator exclusion and have subsequently recolonised the sanctuary. The threatened Chuditch (Western Quoll) is also an occasional visitor.
The sanctuary is also home to 32 reptiles, 12 frogs and 124 bird species, including two threatened Black Cockatoo species (Baudin’s and Carnaby’s) and the threatened forest sub-species of the magnificent Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (or ‘Karak'), from which the sanctuary derives its name.
AWC is the only conservation organisation to measure in a robust scientific manner the ecological health of a network of sanctuaries. At Karakamia, we undertake more than 1,300 live trap-nights, quarterly spotlight surveys and about 4,500 camera trap-nights each year to measure a suite of ecological health indicators including:
Our performance against these indicators provides rigorous scientific data which enables us to track the ecological health of Karakamia.
When Karakamia was established, the Woylie (Bettongia penicillata) was regionally extinct. It was reintroduced to Karakamia in partnership with the WA Government. The Karakamia population has been stable (250-600) for the last 10 years. Maintenance of the Karakamia Woylie population is particularly important because the overall Woylie population in southwestern Australia has declined by 90% in the last 15 years.
Graph: The average number of Woylies seen per year in designated transects against annual rainfall in the region (measured at Bickley 20km from Karakamia).
When Karakamia was established, the Tammar Wallaby was regionally extinct. It was reintroduced to Karakamia in partnership with the WA Government. Spotlighting transects are used to assess the number of Tammar Wallabies and the success of the reintroduction. Steady increases in the population over past 10 years has allowed AWC to translocate the Tammar Wallaby from Karakamia to other places, helping to restock other AWC sanctuaries and national parks.
Graph: The average number of Tammar Wallabies seen per year in designated transects.
Karakamia has a well-established field base that hosts a team of land managers, field ecologists and guides. Key field programs include:
Karakamia Sanctuary is located within the Jarrah forest of the Darling Scarp on the western extremity of the granitic ‘Yilgarn Block’, an ancient landform - one of the oldest on earth - that formed over 2.5 billion years ago. The hills and valleys of the Darling Range were formed by rivers and streams flowing off the ancient plateau towards the sea.
At Karakamia an undulating lateritic plateau is dissected by winter flowing watercourses that feed the permanently flowing Cookes Brook, which runs through the heart of the sanctuary. On steeper hillsides the ancient granite of the Yilgarn Block is exposed. The sanctuary enjoys the moderate Mediterranean climate of Perth.
An important feature of Karakamia is that it contains all the key habitats found within the Jarrah forest vegetation complex. Within its 275 ha area is a mosaic of the Jarrah forest itself, Marri woodland, Wandoo woodland, granitic heathlands and shrublands, as well as riparian (river) zones.
The Jarrah forest vegetation grows predominantly on the lateritic plateaus, with Marri woodland on the slopes, while Wandoo woodland grows on clay soils beneath exposed granite. Diverse heathlands and shrublands appear in the shallow soils surrounding exposed granite, and lower down the slopes Blackbutt woodland leads to a Flooded Gum and sedge community along the riparian (river) zones.
Over 260 species of plants are known to occur at Karakamia Sanctuary, including a number of priority species. A field herbarium has been established to provide a valuable reference for visiting researchers and students.
The science and land management program at Karakamia is run by a team of dedicated site-based staff. Operations are led by the Sanctuary Manager Phil Scully, assisted by Blair Skerman and supported by Natasha Mattar. The science program is delivered by a team of field ecologists including Michael Smith, Chantelle Jackson, Nicola Palmer and Carly Moir.
A visit to Karakamia Wildlife Sanctuary is like going back in time to experience the bush as it was 200 years ago, before the arrival of feral animals. Here you can observe endangered mammals such as Woylies, Quenda, and Tammar Wallabies, foraging together on the forest floor under towering Jarrah and Marri trees. Listen to the Red-tailed Black Cockatoos chortle in chorus as the sun goes down, then try to catch a glimpse of tiny microbats darting and dashing along the bush tracks as they chase a tasty mosquito or other morsel.
For this unique experience, you will be guided on a 2 hour stroll through the bush at twilight, learning about our native species and what you can do to protect them and ensure their survival.
Guided spotlight tours run on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the year and/or by special arrangement. This is a unique opportunity to experience one of Perth’s leading wilderness experiences while also helping to save Australia’s endangered wildlife.
For more information and bookings, click here.