News from the Field

AWC is conserving threatened species around Australia

07 Sep. 2021

This Threatened Species Day marks 85 years since the death of the last known Tasmanian Tiger; an event which has come to symbolise extinction and the loss of Australia’s precious biodiversity. The sad anniversary reminds us of all those wonderful, unique animals which have been willfully destroyed or carelessly neglected, but it also inspires us to do better.

As Australians, we are custodians of a rich natural heritage, and have a responsibility to protect it. With over 1,800 native plant and animal species threatened with extinction, that responsibility drives us to provide effective conservation for all Australian animals, and their habitats.

 

 

Across the 6.5 million hectares of land where AWC works (including in partnerships), AWC protects 74% of Australia’s mammal species, 88% of all bird species and 54% of reptile and frog species.

With help from our generous supporters, Australian Wildlife Conservancy is making a real difference to the fate of many of the country.

 

Brush-tailed Bettong aka Woylie jumps for joy in its new home at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in the Northern Territory. Brad Leue/AWC
Brush-tailed Bettong aka Woylie jumps for joy in its new home at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in the Northern Territory.

 

1. Brush-tailed Bettong (Bettongia penicillata)

Brush-tailed Bettongs aka Woylies were once found throughout the southern parts of Australia with populations spread from Western Australia all the way through to western NSW.

The small marsupial’s fate took a turn for the worse with the introduction of feral cats and foxes. Their populations experienced sharp decline, particularly over the last two decades. As a result, Australia’s Brush-tailed Bettongs are now classed as critically endangered.

AWC protects almost 10% of the world’s remaining population of Brush-tailed Bettongs, within five feral predator-free safe havens at Karakamia (WA), Scotia (NSW), Yookamurra (SA), Mt Gibson (WA) and as of August 2021, Newhaven (NT).

The 2021 reintroduction of Brush-tailed Bettongs at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary was an important milestone, representing the return of the species to the Northern Territory where they had been locally-extinct for over 60 years.

Later this month, AWC plans to establish a new population of Brush-tailed Bettongs in western NSW, with the reintroduction of the species at Mallee Cliffs National Park where we work in partnership with the NSW Government as part of the Saving our Species program.

Read more about our work with Brush-tailed Bettongs, here.

Fun fact: Brush-tailed Bettong can live up to six years and females can start giving birth at six months of age!

 

The habitat of the Kangaroo Island Dunnart was impacted heavily by 2020 bushfires which burnt about 95% of the area where they live. Pat Hammond/AWC
The habitat of the Kangaroo Island Dunnart was impacted heavily by 2020 bushfires which burnt about 95% of the area where they live.

 

2. Kangaroo Island Dunnart (Sminthopsis aitkeni)

As the name suggests, the Kangaroo Island Dunnart is a small, carnivorous marsupial that can only be found on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Their population has been estimated at fewer than 500 individuals.

During the destructive fires, 95% of the Kangaroo Island Dunnart’s habitat was burnt, leaving the animals without adequate vegetation and vulnerable to predation. In response, AWC teamed up with Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife to establish the Western River Refuge, a 369-hectare feral predator-free area which was officially launched in February 2021. The safe haven provides a secure area where the Dunnart population can recover and repopulate.

Read more about our work with the Kangaroo Island Dunnart, here.

Fun fact: The Kangaroo Island Dunnart is typically up to 20cm long and their tail makes up half of their length!

 

A male Gouldian Finch sits on a branch at Mornington-Marion Downs Wildlife Sanctuary where AWC protects the largest remaining population. Martin Willis
A male Gouldian Finch sits on a branch at Mornington-Marion Downs Wildlife Sanctuary where AWC protects the largest remaining population.

 

3. Gouldian Finch (Chloebia gouldiae)

With its bright green, yellow and purple feathers, the Gouldian Finch is one of Australia’s most spectacularly coloured birds. Though it occurs in tropical savanna woodland from the Kimberley through the Top End and into North Queensland, you have to be lucky to catch a glimpse of this species, which is thought to number just a few thousand in the wild.

Once flocking far and wide, the finches were trapped by the thousands by poachers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and have since suffered disruptions to the availability of grass seeds on which they feed, a result of poorly managed fire.

AWC protects some of the healthiest remaining populations of Gouldian Finch at Mornington-Marion Downs along with smaller, mobile populations at Charnley River, Wongalara, Pungalina and Brooklyn.

Read more about our work with the Gouldian Finch, here.

Fun fact: The way to tell apart the sex of Gouldian Finches is through their chest plumage. The male has rich purple feathers on the chest while the female sports a more muted, light mauve.

 

Thanks to a federal grant, AWC hopes to protect Northern Bettongs within a feral predator-free fenced area at Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary. Wayne Lawler/AWC
Thanks to a federal grant, AWC hopes to protect Northern Bettongs within a feral predator-free fenced area at Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary.

 

4. Northern Bettongs (Bettongia tropica)

The small Northern Bettong seems especially close to the brink, with fewer than 1,000 individuals left in the wild. Occupying wet sclerophyll forests on the fringe of North Queensland’s Wet Tropics, this mini-macropod survives only around Mt Carbine and Lamb Range.

AWC is throwing the species a lifeline, by constructing a feral predator-free fenced area at Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary near Paluma in North Queensland. Thanks to a $1.5 million contribution from the federal government’s Environment Restoration Fund’s Safe Haven Grant, AWC is progressing with the establishment of this new safe haven, the first of its kind to be built in northern Australia.

Once complete, AWC will reintroduce the Northern Bettong (Mt Zero-Taravale is within the species’ historic range) safeguarding a population of the species before it’s too late.

Read more about our work with the Northern Bettong, here.

Fun fact: Northern Bettongs are sometimes referred to as “rat kangaroos” because they move in a hopping manner, similar to a kangaroo.

 

Brooklyn is home to 20% of Australian frog species, including this endangered Waterfall Frog (Litoria nannotis). P Webster
Brooklyn is home to 20% of Australian frog species, including this endangered Waterfall Frog (Litoria nannotis).

 

5. Nursery Frogs (Cophixalus)

Brooklyn Wildlife Sanctuary is home to an incredible 20% of all Australian frog species – making it part of a major hotspot for amphibian biodiversity in Queensland’s Wet Tropics. Several of the frog species restricted to the wetter mountains including the Mountain Top Nursery Frog (Cophixalus monticola) and Hosmer’s Frog (Cophixalus hosmeri), and species threatened by the chytrid fungus (such as the Creek Frog and Torrent Tree Frog) find refuge in Brooklyn’s high elevation habitats.

Read more about a targeted frog survey carried out for threatened frogs at Brooklyn last wet season, here.

Fun fact: Nursery frogs are petite in size, measuring as little as 3cm in length.

 

Gibson Wattle is found only in Western Australia and is protected on AWC’s Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary in the WA Wheatbelt. Michael Tichbon
Gibson Wattle is found only in Western Australia and is protected on AWC’s Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary in the WA Wheatbelt.

 

6. Gibson Wattle (Acacia imitans)

Found only in Western Australia, the Gibson Wattle (Acacia imitans) has a highly restricted distribution of about 20 km2, with two of only six known subpopulations occurring on AWC’s Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Wheatbelt region of WA. Feral goats pose the greatest threat to the wattle, which has prickly foliage and small fluffy, yellowish flowers. AWC’s feral animal control program on Mt Gibson is reducing the pressure of feral herbivores on the landscape.

AWC protects 60 species of Acacia at Mt Gibson. Working in partnership with the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), AWC has established new populations of the Gibson Wattle by nurturing several hundred of them inside a feral predator and herbivore-free area on the sanctuary.

 

How can you help?

With your support, AWC’s model of science-informed conservation land management – delivered both alone and in partnership across more than 6.5 million hectares – continues to deliver positive outcomes for Australia’s most at-risk species.

We can’t do it without you. Please click the link below to explore our conservation projects and find out more about donating to AWC.

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