• Venessa Merrin

Historic partnership launched in the Pilliga forest

Bilbies set for return after disappearing more than 100 years ago

The member for Barwon, Kevin Humphries MP, travelled into the vast Pilliga forest (near Narrabri, north-west NSW) today to launch the historic AWC-NSW National Parks partnership with Rob Smith (Regional Manager, NSW-NPWS) and Atticus Fleming (AWC Chief Executive).

The Pilliga National Park-State Conservation Area will be the site of one of two massive feral cat and fox-free areas to be established by AWC, paving the way for the return to NSW of 10 of the world’s most threatened mammal species including the Numbat, the Bilby and the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby.

The launch in the Pilliga highlighted AWC’s commitment to practical land management (including the control of feral animals such as feral cats), based on good science, delivered while working as part of the local community.

See Prime7's coverage of the historic partnership launch here.

See The Courier Narrabri cover story here.

Rob Smith NSW NPWS, Atticus Fleming AWC and Kevin Humphries MP, in the Pilliga

Pilliga Forest map

Under the Agreement, AWC will deliver land management and science services in two areas of the NSW’s national park estate: the 35,000 hectare Pilliga National Park-Pilliga State Conservation Area (the Pilliga) and the 60,000 hectare Mallee Cliffs National Park.

This is the first public-private collaboration of its kind.

Endangered Greater Bilby (foreground) and Boodie (burrowing bettong) inside Scotia's feral cat-free area, western New South Wales

In partnership with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, AWC will establish large (5,000 ha – 8,0000 ha) feral predator-free areas in the Pilliga and at Mallee Cliffs using conservation fencing. Wild populations of threatened mammal species such as Bilbies, Numbats and Western Quoll will then be re-established in these areas. A beyond the fence strategy will also be developed to provide for the release of mammals, where feasible, into unfenced sections of each national park.

Once the feral-free areas are established and mammals are reintroduced (around 3 – 4 years), AWC encourages the public to visit the parks.

“The visitor experience will be unique. It will be like stepping back in time to a period before the arrival of feral animals … as the sun sets, you will see the Australian bush as it should be … alive with small mammals such as Bettongs and Bilbies,” AWC Chief Executive, Mr Fleming said.

“The mammal species to be reintroduced are currently listed as extinct in NSW. Their return to the NSW National Parks estate after an absence of almost a century will be a defining moment in our quest to halt and reverse the loss of Australia’s wildlife,” Mr Fleming said.

The ten nationally threatened mammals to be reintroduced under the agreement are:

Western Barred Bandicoot

AWC is contracted to deliver a suite of land management and science services in the Pilliga and at Mallee Cliffs. The initial term of the contract is for 10 years, with possible extension of up to 40 years.

AWC was chosen to implement this initiative after an exhaustive competitive tender process. AWC was selected on the basis of our expertise and track record on feral animal control, threatened species translocations, fire management and conservation science.

The NSW Government is funding the capital costs associated with the fence construction and reintroductions as well as the annual operating costs of park management. AWC has agreed to co-invest $1.1 million at each site to establish a field operations base from which our staff will operate (there is no existing base at either of the two parks). AWC therefore needs to raise $2.2 million to deliver this ground-breaking initiative partnership.

Australia has the worst mammal extinction record in the world and almost 30% of surviving terrestrial mammals are at risk of extinction. One of the biggest threats to native wildlife is feral cats. Feral cats kill millions of native animals every night. By creating feral free areas such as those being implemented at Mallee Cliffs and the Pilliga, AWC and the NSW government are creating safe environments where vulnerable wildlife can survive and in time, grow in population. This project will help turn back the tide of extinctions.


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