Reserve wombatting well above average
WHEN a drought left many of the Mallee’s southern hairynosed wombats on the brink of starvation, a group of naturalists felt compelled to act on their behalf.
The then-Natural History Society of SA began a campaign, backed by the Sunday Mail, to raise enough money to buy part of Portee Station, between Blanchetown and Swan Reach, in a bid to secure the land’s future as viable habitat.
As the Moorunde Wildlife Reserve marks its 50th anniversary, its custodians – now known as Wombats SA – are happy to report its population of about 2000 wombats.
President Peter Clements was a teenager when his parents Alwin and Berna helped secure land for the reserve.
“There was absolutely nothing that they could see that the wombats could be eating,” the West Lakes man says.
“I have my father’s photos and I can see it was really baron and there was only a bit of plant called twinleaf which is inedible – that was really all that was on the ground.”
After taking control of the property in 1968, the group managed to salvage the land by removing the livestock so vegetation could regrow, and keeping the rabbit population under control.
“The sheep had completely destroyed most of the ground cover and low shrubs,” Dr Clements says. “Over the 50 years, we’ve had it the regrowth has been phenomenal. I’ve heard people say it’s the jewel in the crown of all the reserves in the area, which makes me feel like it’s all worth it.”
The reserve now includes the 2000ha section of Portee Station the group bought in 1968, alongside another 5000ha it was able to secure a decade ago.
Moorunde is home to the densest population of wombats in the Malleee – a region where the population is considered locally threatened because it’s been fragmented by farming activities.
“When you look at it on Google Earth, you can see how many burrows there are – it’s just phenomenal,” Dr Clements says.
CAN YOU DIG IT: Moorunde Wildlife Reserve president Peter Clements with Poppy the wombat.