About Us

© Wayne Lawler/AWC

 

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

 


 

Abt Story

Our Story

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 31 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:

  • 74 per cent of native mammal species (215 species)
  • 88 per cent of native bird species (546 species)
  • 54 per cent of reptile species (555 species)
  • 56 per cent of amphibian species (133 species)
© Wayne Lawler/AWC
Abt Challenge

The challenge

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: 

  • Purchase or acquire land through partnerships with Indigenous groups, governments and private landholders; and
  • Implement practical land management (feral animal control and fire management) which is informed by world-class science.

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:

  • Establishing a national network of massive, fenced feral cat-free havens;
  • Developing effective strategies to reduce the impact of these feral predators beyond the fence; and
  • Partnering with CSIRO to investigate cutting-edge, gene-drive technology to develop a long-term solution for controlling feral cats across the continent.

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.  

© Jonas Klein/AWC
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Our Success

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.

© Wayne Lawler/AWC
Abt Challenge

2020 snapshot – Providing hope for Australia’s threatened wildlife  

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.

© Wayne Lawler/AWC

Establish a network of sanctuaries and other managed land that is home to Australian animal species and the habitats in which they live.

Actions:

  • Establish sanctuaries through:
    • Direct acquisition by AWC
    • Partnerships with Government agencies, indigenous communities, pastoralists and other landholders.

Results:

  • AWC protects:
    • 74% of all mammal species
    • 88% of all bird species
    • Over 54% of all reptile and frog species.
  • Over the last 3 years AWC has expanded the area under management from 4.3 million hectares to 6.5 million hectares in some of the most iconic regions of Australia, including Cape York, the Top End, the remote Kimberley, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre and the south-west forests. (Please see “Partnerships” below).
  • In 2020 AWC established a new partnership with Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife and local landholders to establish a new sanctuary, the Western River Refuge on Kangaroo Island.
  • In 2020-21 AWC expanded its Curramore Wildlife Sanctuary in South-west Queensland through direct acquisition.

Deliver best practice, science-informed land management.

Actions:

  • Implement large-scale fire management, feral animal and weed control programs
  • Establish and manage mainland Australia’s largest network of feral predator-free areas
  • Establish and manage mainland Australia’s largest network of feral herbivore-free areas
  • Actively implement weed control and monitoring programs.

Results:

  • AWC delivers Australia’s largest non-government fire management program.
  • AWC is a national leader in the establishment of feral cat-free areas, with a network of eight fenced areas and one entire island supporting populations of 15 nationally-threatened mammals. Indeed, AWC owns/manages more cat and fox-free land on Australia’s mainland than any other organisation.
  • AWC undertakes Australia’s largest feral herbivore control program. In 2020 AWC removed more than 8,586 feral herbivores (eg cattle, rabbits, camels, pigs).
  • AWC owns and manages mainland Australia’s three largest feral herbivore-free areas in the Kimberley, the edge of Arnhem Land and the Top End.
  • AWC is undertaking a national weed monitoring and control program.
  • Curramore Wildlife Sanctuary in south-west Queensland is a showcase for best practice Lantana control in the region.

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.

Actions:

  • Design, develop and implement Ecohealth – a comprehensive framework for measuring and reporting on the impact of our actions in the field and the ecological health of the areas in which we work.
  • Deliver Australia’s largest field monitoring program.
  • Undertake strategic (alone or in partnership) scientific research into the key issues impacting the survival of Australia’s native species as well as the ecology of threatened wildlife.
  • Publish research and share knowledge of best practice conservation.
  • Contribute to the national conversation about conservation and the issues impacting biodiversity in Australia.

Results:

  • AWC is a leader in threatened mammal translocations and undertakes the most extensive wildlife species translocation program in Australia.
  • 6,000 animals from 20 species, have been translocated into, out of, and between AWC sanctuaries to date.
  • AWC conducts Australia’s most extensive biodiversity survey program gathering data that informs land management actions and measures the ecological return on our supporters’ investment. In 2020 AWC’s biodiversity survey program involved more than 160,000 trap nights across the continent.
  • AWC has developed “Eco-health” which represents an innovative approach for measuring and reporting the ecological health of our sanctuaries and for measuring the impact of our investment in the field. Ecohealth has now been implemented across 30 sanctuaries.
  • Over the last 5 years AWC scientists have published more than 150 peer-reviewed publications.
  • AWC is currently conducting over 140 scientific research projects on AWC properties.
  • AWC scientists host over 100 external research projects.
  • In 2020 AWC was invited to join a panel of experts to provide advice to the Government on how to effectively protect and restore wildlife impacted by the bushfires.
  • During 2020 Dr John Kanowski, shared AWC’s knowledge, experience and scientific findings in a formal submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy, as part of the Inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia.

Demonstrate financial leadership and accountability, grow philanthropic support, increase donor retention and grow our network of support.

Actions:

  • Direct the majority of funds to conservation programs in the field.
  • Run effective fundraising campaigns, apply for relevant grants and encourage supporter bequests.
  • Increase awareness, understanding and support for AWC’s conservation programs and outcomes through:
    • High touch personal contact
    • Email communication and publications
    • Supporter, public and media events
    • Social media outreach
    • Media coverage and third party endorsement.

Results:

  • AWC invests 87% of its total expenditure in the field with only 13% spent on fundraising and administration combined. (AWC spends much less on fundraising and administration than any other comparable organisations in our sector).
  • AWC’s partnerships with philanthropists are fundamental to our success. Over the past five years, philanthropic income has comprised more than 60% of annual revenue (more than $78 million) with the balance generated via contract income.
  • Our commitment to measurable outcomes and strong focus on relationship development has resulted in a market-leading supporter retention rate 2x the sector average (60.1% vs 30.7%).
  • AWC income growth for the last two years from year ended 31 December 2018 to 31 December 2020 is $4,822,198 (+19.1%).
  • This year AWC has added more than 8,531 potential and new donors to its database (a 20% increase year-on-year).
  • Over the last 12 months AWC has tripled the value of its grants under management (from $2.4 million to $6.4 million).
  • In 2020 AWC delivered its first webinar series to educate viewers. Episodes have been viewed more than 70,000 times in 18 countries around the world.

Extend our conservation reach by nurturing and establishing partnerships with others such as universities and scientific institutions, pastoralists, Indigenous peoples and government.

Actions:

Expand AWC’s influence beyond the boundaries of its sanctuaries by:

  • Establishing, nurturing and growing relationships with pastoralists, indigenous peoples and government that will deliver a positive benefit for biodiversity.
  • Engaging with traditional owners to establish a new template that allows indigenous people to generate an income by delivering measurable conservation outcomes.
  • Delivering a new template for measuring conservation outcomes on public land at Mallee Cliffs National Park and in the Pilliga.
  • Restoring regionally extinct species to government protected areas.
  • Delivering a new template for practical science-based conservation on pastoral land.
  • Partner with universities and scientific institutions and undertake strategic scientific research into key issues impacting Australia’s biodiversity.
  • Engaging with land holders and other stakeholders to deliver practical land management (i.e. fire management).

Results:

AWC places a high value on collaborating and partnering with others to generate better outcomes for biodiversity. For example:

  • AWC established an historic partnership with the NSW Government to manage two national parks (Pilliga and Mallee Cliffs). AWC is the only private conservation organization to have ever been contracted to deliver conservation services in a national park. Here AWC is establishing a new template for measuring ecological health and the impact of the public’s investment on conservation outcomes.
  • AWC has established two massive feral predator-free fenced areas at each National Park and is returning up to 10 regionally extinct species to these safe-havens. Already 4 species have been reintroduced (Numbats, Stick-nest Rats, Bridled Nailtail Wallabies, Bilbies). The feral free area at Mallee Cliffs is the largest (9,750 ha) on mainland Australia.
  • AWC has partnered with the Australian Department of Defence to manage Yampi Sound Military Training Area on the Kimberley Coast of Western Australia. Yampi is located in the only part of mainland Australia to have suffered no wildlife extinctions since European settlement.
  • AWC has established a ground-breaking partnership with Bullo River Station to deliver conservation on pastoral land. This represents a new template for conservation that has the potential to be replicated on other pastoral land.
  • AWC has partnered with numerous Indigenous groups across the continent, including Dambimangari Aboriginal Corporation and Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation with whom we are working together to implement an exciting new template for delivering conservation on Indigenous land – one that enables traditional owners to generate an income for generating measurable conservation outcomes. This template is being delivered across a vast 2.5 million hectares of the Kimberley.
  • Across the continent, AWC partners with multiple universities and scientific institutions like the CSIRO. Over the last five years, AWC has published more than 150 scientific peer-reviewed papers.
  • AWC delivers Australia’s largest (non-government) fire management program across 8 million hectares on multiple tenures, including on Indigenous, pastoral and AWC land.
© Wayne Lawler/AWC
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2020 Highlights

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.

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