Re­serve wom­bat­ting well above av­er­age

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - MICHELLE ETHERIDGE

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.

Pic­ture: TAIT SCHMAAL

CAN YOU DIG IT: Moorunde Wildlife Re­serve pres­i­dent Peter Cle­ments with Poppy the wom­bat.

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