Natives’ Ark: Fenced haven to save animals
A FENCE stretching 23km across the bottom of the Yorke Peninsula will create Australia’s largest open-range sanctuary – the Great Southern Ark – to keep out feral cats and foxes and reintroduce at-risk native species.
Work on the multimilliondollar barrier is expected to begin by the end of February, after Natural Resources Northern and Yorke called for tenders.
The State Government-led sanctuary project will reintroduce species at risk of Australia-wide extinction including southern brown bandicoots, red-tailed phascogales (small, carnivorous marsupials) and western quolls.
Natural Resources Northern and Yorke manager of planning and programs Andy Sharp said it would bring a huge boost to agriculture and eco-tourism, alongside the project’s biodiversity benefits.
“It’s about creating a drawcard to attract visitors to southern Yorke, and also about providing opportunities for new tourism operations to start,” Dr Sharp said.
Under the project’s first stage, a fence running northsouth near Warooka will isolate a large part of the “foot” of the peninsula and create a 130,000ha sanctuary.
Construction is expected to begin in about six weeks, and be finished by June.
In about a decade’s time, the project partners hope to build a second, 30km fence, isolating the peninsula’s “ankle” running from near Stansbury to Hardwicke Bay, extending the total sanctuary area to about 150,000ha.
The 1.8m-tall fences, with “floppy” tops to stop climbing cats, would follow current farm and other fence lines, with breaks where roads pass through. Fox and cat controls potentially including baits would be used along the fence to further reduce the number of pests entering the sanctuary.
Project partners including Birdlife Australia, WWF and Zoos SA have secured $2.6 million from the Federal Government, enough to build the first fence.
The total cost of establishing the sanctuary is expected to be $17 million over 20 years.
Dr Sharp said more funding would be sought through fundraising campaigns, philanthropists and other sources.
“We’re expecting the returns on the work we do to increase economic activity by about $1.2 million per annum, so it will very rapidly pay itself off,” he said. A report on the project found nearly all of the area’s 29 original mammal species were locally extinct.
Returning native predators such as barn owls and quolls is aimed at reducing plague pests such as mice and rabbits.
“Barn owls will have significant impact … so it should improve agricultural activities as well,” Dr Sharp said.
Brush-tailed bettongs would improve soil quality.
“One of these little guys can turn over up to five tonnes of soil per annum and that will increase the permeability of the soil to water,” he said.
“It also creates little microhabitat sites for plant species.”
Flinders University Prof Corey Bradshaw said the sanctuary would raise numbers of “functionally extinct” species – ones with tiny or captive-only populations – in “pre-European-type habitats”.
FENCED OUT: Wild cats will be deterred from the Great Southern Ark sanctuary by a 23km fence across the Yorke Peninsula, and inset, red-tailed phascogales and brush-tailed bettongs will be protected in the sanctuary.