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Australia’s largest feral predator-free area declared at Mallee Cliffs National Park

08 Sep. 2020
© Brad Leue/AWC

This Biodiversity Month we are pleased to announce that a major milestone has been reached on one of our most important threatened species recovery projects: Mallee Cliffs National Park now hosts the largest feral predator-free safe haven on mainland Australia.

 

 

This is a huge achievement that’s worth celebrating. At 9,570 hectares, the scale of the feral predator-free area eclipses those at AWC’s Newhaven (a vast 9,450 hectares) and Scotia Wildlife Sanctuaries (8,000 hectares).

The declaration triggers the most ambitious reintroduction program ever to be undertaken in NSW, with up to 10 native mammal species set to be restored here under our partnership with the NSW Government as part of its Saving our Species program. Most of these threatened mammals have been absent from NSW national parks for almost a century.

We’re proud to be part of this landmark project which addresses the single greatest threat to native wildlife: cats and foxes. Across the continent, feral cats alone are estimated to kill 6 million animals every night.

“There is currently no effective landscape-scale control strategy for feral cats – which is why establishing a network of large feral-free areas is so important for our threatened wildlife,” says NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean.

AWC’s model focuses on creating large feral cat and fox-free refuges – it’s a proven strategy for restoring the populations of declining native mammals. The Commonwealth Government’s National Threatened Species Index for Mammals indicates that mammal abundance for 15 taxa increased on average by more than 500% in feral predator-free safe-havens, in contrast to declines elsewhere. In other words, fenced cat and fox-free areas work.

 

Tsi Figure Darkererror
The National Threatened Species Index for Mammals found that mammal abundance in mainland feral predator-free safe-havens increased by an average of more than 500%.

 

Mallee Cliffs’ feral predator-free status is also a significant milestone in our partnership with NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS). Through this project we are building an exciting best-practice template for collaboration between the government and the private (non-profit) sector. Together, we are delivering effective conservation in national parks and generating positive, measurable outcomes for Australia’s threatened wildlife.

 

Bilby At Burrow Malleecliffs Brad Leue 2 © Brad Leue/AWC
Six months after they were released into the breeding area, Bilbies at Mallee Cliffs are breeding.

 

Establishing the feral-free area at Mallee Cliffs has been a mammoth undertaking by AWC land managers, feral animal control officers, ecologists and NPWS, involving:

  • Construction of a 37.2-kilometre fence (that’s 8,400 posts, more than half a million clips, 378 kilometres of wire and 42 kilometres of mesh) in a record 12 weeks;
  • The total eradication of feral predators from within the massive 9,570 hectare fenced area; and
  • More than 28,000 trap nights to ensure no feral cats or foxes remained.

 

Cheryl Anne Monks © Brad Leue/AWC
AWC undertook more than 28,000 trap nights to ensure no feral cats or foxes remain in the feral-free area. Pictured: AWC Feral Animal Control Officer Cheryl Anne Monks.

 

Bilbies have already been released within a 480-hectare breeding area at Mallee Cliffs and will be the first founders to go forth and populate the massive feral-free safe-haven.

Later this year Greater Stick-nest Rats will be reintroduced and the project will ultimately see reintroductions of Western Quoll, Red-tailed Phascogale, Numbat, Western Barred Bandicoot, Bridled Nailtail Wallaby, Burrowing Bettong, Brush-tailed Bettong, and Mitchell’s Hopping-mouse.

 

Greater Stick Nest Rat At Entrance To Nest Mt Gibson 2 © Brad Leue/AWC
Up to 10 nationally threatened mammal species are set to be released at Mallee Cliffs, including the Greater Stick-nest Rat.

 

Thanks to our amazing supporters, and the NSW Government, Mallee Cliffs is now the largest feral cat and fox-free refuge on mainland Australia, and the site of one of the country’s most ambitious rewilding programs 

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