Spanning the central and northern Kimberley, Wilinggin is an extensive Indigenous Protected Area and the traditional lands of the Ngarinyin people. With its lowland savannahs, rugged sandstone ranges and gorges, rainforest pockets, significant rivers and small saltwater areas, Wilinggin country is vast and diverse.
Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) have entered into a partnership to work collaboratively across 1.7 million hectares of Wilinggin country. Within this area, AWC and Wilinggin will work side-by-side in caring for the land and its biodiversity, consistent with the Wilinggin Healthy Country Plan.
The Collaboration Area
Wilinggin country dominates the central Kimberley plateau. The rugged and expansive sandstone and basalt ranges stand resolute against time – an example of the magnificent landscape cared for by the Ngarinyin people for around 50,000 years. The major waterways of the Drysdale, Hann, King Edward, Durack, Moran, Roe, Mitchell, Calder, Isdell, Charnley and Chamberlain rivers carve through the sandstone, revealing the iconic rocky gorges and waterways that are such a prominent feature of the northwest Kimberley. The sandy banks lined with Melaleuca paperbarks, Freshwater Pandanus, Ficus and Grevillea form discrete riparian areas that typify the central plateaus of Wilinggin country.
The Wilinggin-AWC collaboration area comprises the non-pastoral tenure blocks of the Wilinggin Native Title area. These blocks include: Wood River block (immediately north of Tablelands and immediately east of Marion Downs); North-east block (east of Ellenbrae station and south of Drysdale River National Park); Mitchell River blocks (on the Mitchel Plateau); Mid-west block (surrounding Charnley River-Artesian Range sanctuary and extending to the east of Marion Downs); and the South-west block (immediately east of Charnley River-Artesian Range sanctuary).
Over this area – which is of great significance to the Ngarinyin people and cared for under their Healthy Country Plan – Wilinggin and AWC will work together, learn from each other, and continue moving forward with wildlife monitoring and threat management in looking after country.
Wilinggin country is vast and diverse with wildlife to match. Parts of this awe-inspiring country protect some of Australia’s rarest mammals, including the Black-footed Tree-rat (Mesembriomys gouldii), Monjon (Petrogale burbidgei), Scaly-tailed Possum (Wyulda squamicaudata), Golden-backed Tree-rat (Mesembriomys macrurus), and Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus).
Remnant populations of threatened and endemic birds that are known from, or could potentially occur on Wilinggin country include the Black Grasswren (Amytornis housei), Gouldian Finch (Erythrura gouldiae), Northern Crested Shrike-tit (Falcun culus frontatus whitei), Red Goshawk (Erythrotriorchis radiates) and the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (Malurus coronatus coronatus).
The Ngarinyin people are also custodians of two nationally significant fish species – the Barnett River Gudgeon (Hypseleotris kimberleyensis) that is only found in the Barnett River system and the critically endangered Freshwater Sawfish (Pristis microdon).
For many rare species, whose range once extended across northern Australia, this part of the Kimberley is their last remaining refuge.
AWC Field Programs
Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and the Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) are working together across 1.73 million hectares of the northwest Kimberley, to protect an array of threatened species while generating sustainable income for WAC and important socio-economic benefits for Wilinggin Traditional Owners.
Between AWC, Wilinggin Traditional Owners and the Wungurr Rangers, land management operations will include fire management, weed control, and feral animal management. Periodic reporting will track key metrics, such as the density of feral herbivores, the extent of weed infestations, and the success of prescribed burning regimes.
Scientific surveys will involve building a robust inventory across a variety of habitat types within the collaboration area and ongoing monitoring, particularly of vulnerable, endangered, and significant species. The project aims to maintain/increase populations of threatened species that are known to be on or could potentially occur on Wilinggin land, (e.g., Northern Quoll, Gouldian Finch, Kimberley Brush-tailed Phascogale, Brush-tailed Rabbit-rat and Black-footed Tree-rat).
Fire management is a critical element of the partnership, with the aim of reducing the frequency and extent of late season wildfires, and increasing the amount and dispersal of long, unburnt vegetation (critical for wildlife in need of food and shelter). Effective prescribed burning protects wildlife habitat and cultural sites, and generates carbon credits which can be sold annually by WAC. AWC and Wilinggin Rangers will also collaborate on the development and implementation of annual activity plans for ‘right way’ burning.
Wildlife in the north west of Australia are threatened primarily by feral cats, late dry season wildfires and introduced/feral herbivores (cattle, horses, donkeys, pigs). Threat management will include conducting early dry season patchy burning to achieve patches of differently aged vegetation, decrease the distance between unburnt patches and minimise the extent of destructive late dry season wildfires, removing introduced herbivores from areas of high conservation priority, and in doing so minimise the impact of feral cats. The landscape in some parts of the collaboration area is rugged and complex, which may moderate the impact of wildfire resulting in protected pockets of vegetation, be a discouragement to stock movement, and decrease feral cat hunting success. The ongoing incursion of Cane Toads into the Kimberley presents an emerging threat to native predators like Northern Quolls, Freshwater Crocodiles, and large goannas and snakes.
AWC protects three populations of Northern Quoll and their habitat on a number of our northern sanctuaries.
AWC’s Charnley River-Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary protects a vitally important population of the Golden-backed Tree-rat.
The Monjon is the smallest of the rock-wallabies and is endemic to the far northwest Kimberley region of Western Australia.