Australian Wildlife Conservancy is the biggest private (not for profit) owner and/or manager of land for conservation in Australia. As a leader in the field, our mission is the effective conservation of all Australian native animal species and the habitats in which they live.
hectares of land owned and/or managed for conservation by AWC
locations protecting some of Australia’s most endangered species
native species threatened with extinction
Australian Wildlife Conservancy was borne out of one man’s mission to turn back the tide of extinctions of Australia’s native species. Starting with one property in south Western Australia, Martin Copley began a journey which would lead to the creation of Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the creation of a new model for conservation.
Through support from donors and innovative partnerships with Indigenous groups, governments and landholders, AWC now owns, manages or works in partnerships at 30 properties across the nation, covering almost 6.5 million hectares.
Through this network of large-scale wildlife sanctuaries in remote and iconic regions, such as the Kimberley, Cape York, central Australia and the Top End, we protect some of the nation’s most iconic and endangered wildlife including:
Australia has the worst rate of mammal extinction in the world. Since European settlement in 1788, more than 10 percent of mammal species have disappeared due to predation by introduced species, such as feral cats and foxes, and habitat degradation. More than 1,700 species are currently facing extinction. Inaction or ‘business as usual’ for conservation will lead to additional extinctions. To reverse this decline we have developed a new model for conservation in which we:
Feral cats are the single greatest threat to wildlife, killing millions of native animals each day. Conservative estimates put the number of feral cats across Australia at three million. Our strategy to reduce the impact of feral cats includes:
Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity has also diminished due to the impact of habitat degradation through large-scale land clearing, bad fire management practices and the impact of feral herbivores and weeds. The scale of our land management activities are unprecedented in Australia. We conduct the biggest non-government fire management program in the country in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia.
Through the generosity of our supporters, AWC manages the biggest network of feral cat and fox-free land on mainland Australia where we have successfully reintroduced endangered species to their former habitats.
Our practical land management program coupled with solid scientific research and practices ensure that we produce measurable results. Each year, our team of ecologists conduct the nation’s most extensive biodiversity program gathering data that informs AWC’s land management actions and enables us to measure the ecological return on our supporters’ investment.
With almost 80 per cent of our staff based at our sanctuaries around the country, more than 85 per cent of operational expenditure is incurred on conservation where it makes the greatest difference to Australia’s native species – in the field.
2020 has reminded us that the effective conservation of all Australian wildlife and the habitats in which they live has never been more important.
Australia Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) science-based, land management partnership approach has maintained momentum on ensuring the survival of many of our threatened species despite the dramatic events of the last year. AWC’s rigorous approach to setting objectives, measuring progress and delivering with optimum effectiveness has ensured clear and tangible progress in conservation outcomes.
Learn more about AWC’s objectives and results below.
Establish a network of sanctuaries and other managed land that is home to Australian animal species and the habitats in which they live.
Deliver best practice, science-informed land management.
Improve and maintain ecological health – species abundance, diversity and ecosystem function – in AWC sanctuaries through integrated and cost-effective delivery of best practice land management and world class science.
Demonstrate financial leadership and accountability, grow philanthropic support, increase donor retention and grow our network of support.
Extend our conservation reach by nurturing and establishing partnerships with others such as universities and scientific institutions, pastoralists, Indigenous peoples and government.
Expand AWC’s influence beyond the boundaries of its sanctuaries by:
AWC places a high value on collaborating and partnering with others to generate better outcomes for biodiversity. For example:
Fortunately, no Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) sanctuaries were directly impacted by the ‘Black Summer’ fires, so we were uniquely placed to help with the bushfire recovery effort. AWC ecologists and land managers collaborated with local partners to deliver camera trap surveys, fence construction, cat trapping, tree climbing, and even Koala catching. AWC teams were deployed across six sites to conduct targeted surveys, assess damage to habitat, provide strategic advice, and carry out urgent interventions to protect surviving populations of threatened species.
AWC joined forces with Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife and local landholders and constructed a (13.8 hectare) cat-free refuge to secure the survival of Australia’s most endangered mammal: the Kangaroo Island Dunnart. Work has begun (and is almost complete) on a larger (370 hectare) fenced area to also offer protection to other threatened wildlife including Southern Brown Bandicoots, Southern Emu Wrens and Kangaroo Island Echidnas.
AWC was invited to join a panel alongside experts to provide advice to the Government on how to effectively protect and restore wildlife impacted by the bushfires.
In late March, AWC joined Blue Mountains organisation Science for Wildlife to assist in the release of a group of Koalas that were rescued from the path of the raging Gosper’s Mountain ‘mega-fire’ in December. This newly rediscovered Koala population is among the most genetically diverse in Australia, making it critical for the conservation of the species. AWC ecologists and expert tree-climbers provided on-site assistance with the release, and to radio-track and monitor the animals as they settled home over the following days.
On 17 October, a NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service hazard reduction burn at Sydney’s iconic North Head jumped containment lines. The uncontrolled and intense fire moved rapidly across the headland, burning through approximately 62 hectares of bush and a substantial section of Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC’s) project area. Our team was on the ground since the day after the fire, rescuing wildlife, creating shelters and assessing the impact to the headland. We installed refuge tunnels, nest boxes and watering points and providing supplementary food for surviving animals.
AWC delivers Australia’s largest non-government fire management program and despite the challenges of COVID we mobilised helicopters, staff, Indigenous rangers and supplies to our Charnley River Sanctuary in the Kimberley where the team remained in isolation for eight weeks in order to successfully deliver prescribed burning across 6 million hectares.
Across the continent, AWC’s conservation land managers have managed weeds, fire and feral animals – removing 8,586 feral herbivores from our network of sanctuaries and partnership sites. AWC land managers also maintained 8 feral predator-free areas and mainland Australia’s three largest feral herbivore-free areas, repaired infrastructure, conducted research and monitoring programs and, excitingly, developed innovative technology solutions to support our strategic field research programs.
This year saw endangered Mala safely translocated from Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary in western NSW to the Newhaven Stage 1 (9,450 hectare) feral-free exclosure in the Northern Territory, as well as the first reintroduction of Red-tailed Phascogales into Newhaven.
In a mammoth effort, AWC achieved feral predator-free status for the 9,570 hectare Mallee Cliffs National Park exclosure, creating the largest such refuge on mainland Australia (and eclipsing AWC’s feral-free area at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary (9,450 hectares)). The Bilby population has doubled since they were reintroduced to Mallee Cliffs last year and over recent months, we released Greater Stick-nest Rats and Numbats back in to Mallee Cliffs, where they’ve been missing for a century. This NSW Government partnership will see a suite of regionally-extinct species like Bettongs, Quolls and Red-tailed Phascogales restored here.
Across each of our sanctuaries and partnership projects, AWC scientists compile an inventory of animals and plants, set thousands of live traps and motion-sensor cameras to detect elusive wildlife, search for threatened species and record patterns in diversity and abundance over time. Despite limited capacity in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, AWC’s ecologists have managed to achieve an astounding year of surveys, involving more than 225,000 trap nights (both live trapping and camera traps) across the country. A recent expedition to Wongalara Wildlife Sanctuary in the Top End of the Northern Territory resulted in a new species being added to the sanctuary’s list, the Chestnut-backed Button-quail. In the remote north-west Kimberley, the presence of some of Australia’s rarest mammal species was confirmed in a survey carried out jointly by Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) and Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC). Camera traps deployed over the northern wet season detected the endangered Black-footed Tree-rat (only the second record in the Kimberley in the last thirty years) and the elusive Kimberley Brush-tailed Phascogale, extending its known range.
At Bullo River Station, AWC ecologists conducted the first comprehensive biodiversity monitoring survey. Bird surveys resulted in over 1,500 sightings of nearly 80 bird species and brought the number of finches known to occur on the station to an impressive list of 11 species, including the threatened Gouldian Finch and Star Finch.
Our national program of biodiversity surveys generates a large volume of data on species populations, and in 2020 we made a significant contribution to the inaugural national Threatened Species Index for Mammals. This Index is critically important for informing the national conservation effort.
In 2021 AWC is celebrating 30 years of AWC’s journey, which traverses the inspiring legacy of its founder, Martin Copley, who first established Karakamia Wildlife Sanctuary on the outskirts of Perth, to our status as one of the world’s largest conservation organisations, delivering science-informed land management across more than 6.5 million hectares on land we own or manage in partnership.
Through 2021 and beyond AWC will continue to expand its network of feral predator-free safe havens rebuilding mammal populations in Australia’s largest rewilding program.