Category: history

New agreement to provide hope for Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats

AWC has entered a partnership with the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science (DES) to care for one of the last two remaining populations of the critically endangered Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat in southwest Queensland.

AWC will assume management responsibilities of the wombat population at the 130-hectare Richard Underwood Nature Refuge, located 45 minutes outside of St George. Over the last 30 years, DES has led a recovery program for the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, supported by Glencore and The Wombat Foundation, increasing wombat numbers from 35 to more than 300 individuals at Epping Forest National Park (Scientific) in central Queensland. With the support of the Underwood family, a second population was established at RUNR in 2009.

AWC will continue and expand on DES’ program at the refuge by undertaking strategic research and management responsibilities.

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New agreement to protect critical NSW forest for endangered Koalas


AWC established a new sanctuary protecting almost
4,000 hectares of lush forest habitat in the NSW Hunter region. Situated less than three hours north of Sydney, Waulinbakh Wildlife Sanctuary is part of a conservation agreement with philanthropists and long-time AWC supporters Andrew and Jane Clifford to manage the private estate. 

A wonder of topographically complex ridges and ranges, shifting from dry sclerophyll forests at the peaks to dense, wet rainforest in the deeper gullies, the sanctuary provides vital habitat for many forest-dwelling species including the Koala, recently declared an Endangered species in NSW, QLD and ACT.  

At the time of the agreement AWC scientists estimated that the sanctuary was likely to support more than 100 vertebrate species of which 12 are listed as threatened. 

 

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Traditional owners, Central Land Council (CLC) and AWC partner to conserve Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust

The Ngalurrtju partnership is established, seeing Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust – a massive area of Indigenous freehold land in the Northern Territory – managed collaboratively for conservation. Here, traditional owners, the CLC and AWC are working together to deliver conservation land management (fire management, feral animal control and weed eradication) and science programs to protect the property’s unique cultural and ecological values.

The Ngalurrtju partnership builds on long-standing and productive relationships between Warlpiri, Anmatyerr and Luritja-speaking traditional owners, the CLC and AWC and provides exciting opportunities for mutual learning through the sharing of Aboriginal cultural and ecological knowledge, conservation land management practices and scientific research methods.

Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust covers 323,000 hectares at the edge of the Tanami Desert and straddles the transition zone at the junction of three arid zone bioregions. The property adjoins AWC’s 262,000-hectare Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, creating a conservation area of almost 600,000 hectares in central Australia.

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Landmark partnership enhances conservation across six million hectares

North Australian Pastoral Company (NAPCo) and AWC entered a landmark partnership, working collaboratively to add an additional six million hectares to conservation land management in Australia.

NAPCo is one of Australia’s largest private landholders and oldest cattle producers, operating across 14 properties in the Northern Territory and Queensland, with a commitment to sustainable environmental management. Given this commitment and the scale of operations, these vast stations have considerable conservation value and a number of the properties are located in bioregions poorly represented in the National Reserve System.

Around 44% of Australia is pastoral land and a strategic, cross-sector approach is key to scaling up conservation. Building on successes achieved at Bullo River Station – the first partnership of its kind in Australia – the collaborative AWC–NAPCo partnership contributes substantially to conservation efforts and effectively doubles AWC’s area of influence in generating measurable outcomes for biodiversity to more than 12.5 million hectares.

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AWC celebrates three decades of effective, science-informed conservation

On 2 August, 2021, marks thirty years since the purchase of Karakamia and the start of the AWC story.

Support from generous donors and innovative partnerships with Indigenous groups, governments and landholders, is seeing AWC effectively deliver conservation across 6.5 million hectares of the country. In these remote and iconic regions AWC conserves hundreds of ecosystems that provide refuge for:

    • 74 per cent of mainland Australia’s mammal species
    • 88 per cent of native bird species
    • 55 per cent of reptile species
    • 54 per cent of amphibian species

This year we will release our book ‘Australian Wildlife Conservancy: celebrating the first thirty years’ to mark this special occasion. The book is a collection of stories from the AWC family, past and present, providing a window into AWC’s history and a look to the future.

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AWC’s first reintroductions

Premier of Western Australia, the Hon Richard Court AC, offically opened Karakamia on 22 December 1994. Backed by the Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management, Martin and his team had already released Woylies (Brush-tailed Bettongs, Bettongia penicillata) and Quenda (Isoodon fusciventer) into the sanctuary’s feral predator-free fenced area, and would go on to release a range of threatened mammals including Western Ringtail Possums (Pseudocheirus occidentalis).

These releases into a private fenced wildlife sanctuary were the first of their kind in Western Australia. The success of the program would lead AWC to become a leading proponent of reintroducing threatened mammals to feral predator-free areas across Australia.

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Adapting to the challenges of 2020

After the Black Summer fires, AWC was proud to be able to help with the bushfire recovery effort.

AWC ecologists and conservation land managers collaborated with local landowners and partners to assist with camera trap surveys to assess and monitor surviving wildlife, fence construction and cat trapping to protect animals from this significant threat, and Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) translocations to secure populations that were displaced. AWC was also invited to join an expert panel to provide advice to the Federal Government on how to effectively protect and restore wildlife impacted by the bushfires.

In this same year, COVID-19 erupted and restrictions meant that the implementation of many programs had to change. Despite the incredible challenges, the commitment of AWC staff and the flexibility and financial robustness of the AWC model enabled the continued delivery of conservation action.

In 2020, AWC’s conservation land managers maintained fire management, feral animal and weed control programs, including the delivery of fire management across 7 million hectares of northern Australia.

AWC ecologists reintroduced Red-tailed Phascogales (Phascogale calura) to Central Australia and Greater Stick-nest Rats (Leporillus conditor) and Numbats (Myrmecobius fasciatus) to NSW National Parks. Together, AWC land managers and ecologists undertook more than 250,000 trap nights and camera traps nights across the country.

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New sanctuary rises from the ashes

In the immediate aftermath of the Black Summer (2019-2020) bushfires, AWC commenced working with Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife and local landowners the Doube family to protect the Kangaroo Island Dunnart (Sminthopsis aitkeni). The entire known range of this small marsupial was impacted by the bushfires and the future of the species was uncertain.

Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, the Doube family and AWC constructed a 13.8-hectare fenced critical refuge around remnant habitat where the Dunnarts had been detected. The Australian Army provided crucial assistance by clearing 1.7 kilometres of fence line prior to construction.

In February of 2021, the 369-hectare Western River Refuge on Kangaroo Island was launched by South Australian Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs, securing a larger fenced haven for ecosystem recovery.

The Western River Refuge protects a suite of other threatened species including the Kangaroo Island Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), Heath Goanna (Varanus rosenbergi), Bassian Thrush (Zoothera lunulata) and Western Whipbird (Psophodes nigrogularis lashmari). Since its construction, adult and juvenile Dunnarts have been detected throughout the protected area and a young female was captured during routine monitoring.

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Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) and AWC enter into an innovative partnership

WAC and AWC entered into an innovative and ambitious partnership, working collaboratively across 1.73 million hectares of the north-west Kimberley to enhance conservation science and land management in the region.

Within this area, WAC and AWC work together to enhance WAC management programs, consistent with the Wilinggin Healthy Country Plan. Wiliggin’s Wungurr Rangers have been working with Ngarinyin Traditional Owners for more than a decade to protect the cultural and natural values of the Willinggin Indigenous Protected Area.

Together, WAC and AWC aim to maintain, and where possible increase, populations of threatened species on Wilinggin Country.

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Using cutting-edge technology to improve science programs

AWC, in partnership with Microsoft, launched a research program using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to support AWC’s nationwide conservation programs.

A key focus has been developing an AI program that auto-detects animals in camera trap photos.

The results have delivered substantial gains in efficiency when processing camera trap images, as it automates much of the process. AWC continues to improve this AI model and to explore other forms of technological innovation as a means to increase effectiveness in the field.

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