Category: history

Ambitious project to restore Central Australia’s lost biodiversity

In 2015 AWC launched one of the planet’s largest feral cat eradication projects, involving the establishment of a massive feral cat-free area.

The project is of global conservation significance, commencing with the completion of Stage 1. This 9,450-hectare fenced feral predator-free safe haven will provide a critical refuge for at least 10 threatened mammal species set to be restored here, including the locally extinct and endangered Mala (Rufous Hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus; now returned to Newhaven), the critically endangered Central Rock-rat (Antina, Zyzomys pedunculatus) and the threatened Golden Bandicoot (Isoodon auratus).

Ecologists and conservation land managers have commenced assessment of Stage 2 that could potentially expand the project to 100,000 feral predator-free or controlled hectares.

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State-of-the-art research centre honours Sir David Attenborough

The David Attenborough Field Research Station was officially opened by the Western Australian Minister for the Environment, the Hon Albert Jacob MLA.

The station was named in recognition of Sir David Attenborough’s role in inspiring science-based conservation across the planet.

It is located in the rugged sandstone gorges of the Artesian Range, in a lost world – one of the last remaining areas on mainland Australia to have suffered almost no mammal extinctions. Here AWC researchers search to unravel the secrets that allow wildlife to persist in this remote part of the continent.

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Martin Copley passes away

On 30 July 2014, Australia lost one of its great conservation heroes and philanthropists when Martin Copley AM, AWC’s Founder and Chair for nearly 15 years, passed away.

Martin made an extraordinary contribution to conservation, providing individuals with the opportunity to help reverse the decline of Australia’s wildlife. Over the course of his involvement, Martin’s monetary input is estimated at $70 million, but no figure can be placed on the time and passion he poured into AWC and to safeguarding Australia’s wildlife for the future.

Few people have made such an immense contribution to conservation in this country. In 2010, Martin was honoured by being made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to conservation and the environment.

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HRH The Prince of Wales becomes patron of AWC

HRH The Prince of Wales became AWC’s Patron. As Patron, The Prince of Wales highlights and promotes the globally significant efforts of AWC to halt the tide of extinctions in Australia and reverse the decline of native wildlife.

His Royal Highness is committed to conservation and has a long history of involvement and interest in environmental and conservation causes, helping to bring global attention to the plight of Australia’s threatened wildlife.

The Prince’s lifelong record of supporting conservation plays a vital role in raising awareness about the need for decisive and effective action to prevent further extinctions.

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Establishing Tableland Wildlife Sanctuary

Yulmbu Aboriginal Corporation and AWC entered into a historic agreement, supported by the Western Australian Government.

This agreement saw Tableland Pastoral Station subleased by AWC for conservation. This was the first time in Australia that an Indigenous community sub-leased land to a non-government organisation for conservation.

Tableland abuts Mornington-Marion Downs and together these sanctuaries protect threatened wildlife and habitat across a vast 872,000 hectares of the central Kimberley.

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Final fence posts installed at Wongalara

In late September of 2012, as the Top End temperatures began to climb, Wongalara Wildlife Sanctuary Manager Chris Whatley and his team completed the final stages of a 160-kilometre fence to protect more than 100,000 hectares of tropical woodland, wetland and rich riparian habitat from feral herbivores.

It was a historic moment, creating the largest feral herbivore-free area on mainland Australia. For the first time in over a century, a significant area of land in the Top End was free of large feral herbivores such as buffalo, cattle, horses and donkeys.

Established in 2006, Wongalara protects over 190,000 hectares to the south of Arnhem Land. Wongalara now forms one of mainland Australia’s three largest feral herbivore-free areas (feral herbivores are also functionally extinct are on parts of AWC’s Mornington-Marion Downs-Tableland Sanctuaries and at Pungalina-Seven Emu Wildlife Sanctuary).

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Mt Gibson to provide safe haven

The first step was taken in the Mt Gibson Wildlife Restoration Project with the commencement of planning for the construction of a specially designed 43-kilometre feral-proof fence, built around 7,800 hectares of habitat on the sanctuary.

Fence construction was completed in June 2014. This immensely important project was instigated to reintroduce at least 10 regionally extinct and threatened mammal species.

In 2021, nine of these species have now been reintroduced, setting a new benchmark for conservation in Australia. The Woylie (Bettongia penicillata) population is estimated at over 1,000 individuals and the Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) and Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) populations have expanded to occupy the entire safe haven.

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New sanctuary to conserve iconic inland birds

The then Federal Environment Minister, the Hon Peter Garrett AM, traveled to Bowra in late May 2010 to preside over celebrations marking the acquisition of AWC’s twenty-first sanctuary, and its addition to the National Reserve System.

Located in the heart of the Mulga Lands bioregion in southern Queensland, Bowra is a birdwatcher’s paradise. It is home to more than 200 bird species including the Hall’s Babbler (Pomatostomus halli), Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush (Cinclosoma castaneothorax), Bourke’s Parrot (Neopsephotus bourkii) and the Chirruping Wedgebill (Psophodes cristatus).

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Native title of Ngalia-Warlpiri and Luritja Traditional Owners recognised at Newhaven

AWC became the first NGO to enter into a native title consent determination with Ngalia-Warlpiri and Luritja Traditional Owners, recognising their native title rights in relation to Newhaven Wildlife Sanctauary.

As of 2021, AWC has worked in partnership with Ngalia-Warlpiri and Luritja Traditional Owners and Warlpiri Rangers for over a decade, on priority conservation programs including fire management, feral animal control and biological surveys to protect Newhaven’s ecological health.

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Restoring lost mammals to North Head

AWC embarked on its first, historic government partnership, working with Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to provide strategic advice on the protection of the headland’s endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub community, and to deliver a range of conservation projects including the reintroduction of locally extinct species to North Head Sanctuary.

The sanctuary, comprising 74 hectares of land held by the Trust, is managed in an integrated manner with the adjoining Sydney Harbour National Park. Together, these sites represent one of the most important areas for biodiversity conservation within the Sydney Basin.

AWC has reintroduced three locally extinct mammals here: the Eastern Pygmy Possum (Cercartetus nanus), Brown Antechinus (Antechinus stuartii), and native Bush Rat (Rattus fuscipes). The reintroduction of Bush Rats was particularly exciting as this species is able to act as a biological control measure against invasive black rats, due to the Bush Rats’ territorial nature. The Bush Rat and Eastern Pygmy Possum are important pollinators of the Banskia Scrub.

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