News from the Field

Conservation delivers dramatic results at Bullo River Station

10 Jun. 2021

AWC’s work on one of the country’s most iconic pastoral leases – Bullo River Station in the Northern Territory – is delivering dramatic results and exciting progress.

At Bullo River Station, AWC delivers conservation land management and science as part of an innovative partnership with Bullo River’s owners, Julian and Alexandra Burt. This ground-breaking partnership is the first of its kind and demonstrates that conservation and pastoral activities can co-exist successfully. AWC is fully contracted to undertake this work at Bullo River Station, meaning that no donation dollars are used to undertake this work.

 

Bullo River Station is home to the endangered Gouldian Finch (Chloebia gouldiae) O Aylen/AWC
Bullo River Station is home to the endangered Gouldian Finch (Chloebia gouldiae).

 

Since 2017, AWC’s talented team of ecologists and land managers have been on the ground undertaking inventory surveys, monitoring the property’s ecological health and delivering fire, feral animal and weed control programs. The results so far are phenomenal and underline the effectiveness of AWC’s approach to science-informed land management.

Over the last four years, AWC’s conservation land managers have worked closely with the Bullo River team to destock and restore the wetlands. This involves mustering feral cattle out of the remote parts of the property, setting up block fences to prevent future feral animal incursion and introducing a prescribed burning program. These intensive efforts are paying off, with healthier spring systems and an increased diversity of vegetation ages which are critical for the persistence of small-medium mammals in the savanna.

 

Excluding cattle and buffalo from wetlands, combined with a bumper wet season, has led to a dramatic recovery J Clarke/AWC
Excluding cattle and buffalo from wetlands, combined with a bumper wet season, has led to a dramatic recovery.

 

AWC’s ecologists have been busy expanding the species inventory for the property. Through comprehensive trapping surveys of 20 lowland and 17 upland sites, we are recording many new confirmations for the property, including 18 reptiles, 3 birds and 1 frog species.

Excitingly, we also made the first captures of the carnivorous marsupial the False Antechinus (Pseudantechinus sp.), previously only seen on camera trap images, and are awaiting species confirmation by genetic analysis from experts. The team has also encountered a range of grass finches including the endangered Gouldian Finch (Chloebia gouldiae), Star Finch (Neochmia ruficauda) and Masked Finch (Poephila personata).

 

Field Ecologist Rhiannon Khoury holds a Northern Snapping Turtle (Elseya dentata). This species was newly recorded during a recent survey at Bullo River Station, as part of one of the most extensive science programs in the country. J Clarke/AWC
Field Ecologist Rhiannon Khoury holds a Northern Snapping Turtle (Elseya dentata). This species was newly recorded during a recent survey at Bullo River Station, as part of one of the most extensive science programs in the country.

 

Following the above average 2020-21 wet season, the science team has spent many hours spotlighting in Bullo River’s rugged gorge areas. Compared to previous surveys after failed wet seasons, AWC ecologists have already noted a significant difference in conditions including flourishing vegetation and higher rates of wildlife captures.

This pioneering partnership demonstrates that pastoral and conservation activities can co-exist. Ongoing conservation land management will improve the property’s ecological health, while monitoring will reveal the ecological treasures of the region and track key threats. This hands-on, science-led model will be a catalyst for change across Australia.

 

Pseudantechinus sp. captured at Bullo River Station for the first time during 2021 surveys. A McNab/AWC
Pseudantechinus sp. captured at Bullo River Station for the first time during 2021 surveys.

 

AWC’s work at Bullo River Station also highlights the dramatic results that effective land management can generate for biodiversity – as well as the importance of conservation science for measuring biodiversity outcomes and refining our approach.

Learn more about AWC’s work at Bullo River Station, here.

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