As 2020 draws to a close, we reflect on what a tumultuous year it has been. Australia is a land of extremes: large-scale, catastrophic bushfires; drought conditions over large parts of the country; floods and severe weather conditions elsewhere. While fire, floods and drought are part of the rhythm of the Australian landscape, the additional impact of COVID-19 has tested the resolve and resilience of us all.
Like every other organisation in Australia, AWC had to assess the impact and challenges of COVID-19. I’m proud to say, the AWC team has faced them head-on. We pre-empted Government-mandated restrictions and made some tough decisions to ensure AWC’s sanctuaries were safe, secure and sufficiently resourced to see out the lockdown period and continue the important work of science-informed land management.
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.
We implemented protocols that saw 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.
In a mammoth effort, we achieved feral predator-free status for the 9,570 hectare Mallee Cliffs National Park exclosure, creating the largest such refuge on mainland Australia, and triggering an ambitious program of reintroductions that will see a suite of regionally-extinct species like Numbats, Bettongs, Quolls and Red-tailed Phascogales restored here.
Across the continent, AWC’s land managers and ecologists have also managed fire, feral animals and weeds, maintained infrastructure, conducted research and monitoring programs and, excitingly, developed innovative technology solutions to support our field ecology programs.
COVID-19 has reminded us that our mission – the effective conservation of all Australian wildlife and the habitats in which they live − has never been more important. AWC’s work is critical for ensuring the survival of many of our threatened species. While the near future is uncertain for all of us, at AWC we remain steadfastly focused on achieving our mission.
We also look forward to 2021 when we will celebrate 30 years of AWC’s journey, which traverses the inspiring legacy of our 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.
I consider AWC to be a family, and I hope that you, through your support and connection with AWC, feel as much a part of the family as I do.
Have a safe and merry Christmas − and thank you for your support during one of the most tumultuous years in generations.
Read and download this full issue of Wildlife Matters here.