“‘Our ultimate mission is to conserve our natural habitat and this guides everything that we do. Our future is inextricably linked with the health of our environment”
Charles Carlow, Owner
Arkaba’s story is one of commitment to a remarkable conservation effort and proof that with love and care for the environment, that Mother Nature can heal. We believe that conservation of our environment goes hand in hand with an improved guest experience and our aim on Arkaba is to provide a unique nature experience with exclusive private access for our guests to the extraordinary diversity of our property.
Gaining a true insight into what’s involved in conservation is one of the most rewarding experiences to be had and guests can join our mission to restore Arkaba’s biodiversity with some hands-on conservation activities. These can include tracking a radio-collared feral cat with a telemetry device, setting up the trip cameras that monitor key sites across the property, looking for signs of vegetation critical to endangered animals, or joining a biologist on land surveys.
Australia is one of the most biologically diverse countries on earth, with over 80% of flora and fauna species being endemic to this unique environment. However, since European settlement 200 years ago, the destruction and fragmentation of natural habitats through the clearance of vegetation for agriculture, as well as the impact of feral animals and invasive weeds has significantly impacted Australia’s biodiversity.
Arkaba had been a working sheep property since 1851. In 2009 when Wild Bush Luxury added Arkaba to its portfolio of luxury tourism destinations in Australia, the impact of over 150 years of livestock grazing was evident. The destruction and fragmentation of natural habitats through the clearance of vegetation for agriculture as well as the impact of feral animals and invasive weeds had significantly impacted Arkaba’s biodiversity. In some areas, the land was barren, eroded and void of many native animals and plants.
As a private wildlife conservancy we endeavoured to put in place successful conservation programs across the property, focussing primarily on feral species eradication and reversing the effects of years of livestock grazing. In 2010 we removed remaining sheep stock from two-thirds of the property, with the last of these removed in September 2013. Ongoing efforts to reduce numbers of feral goats, foxes and cats have involved aerial and ground-based control methods that have proven highly effective.
Arkaba’s conservation programs receive funding under the Native Vegetation Council’s ‘Significant Environment Benefits Grant (SEB)’ program. The SEB grants “provide funding for the on-ground restoration of native vegetation in South Australia” and on Arkaba these programs were initiated in 2014 and are still ongoing across the property.
The entire property (an area of 260km2) is now managed for biodiversity outcomes after 150 years of grazing by domestic stock. Feral animal control programs have continued and pest plant control programs commenced. With the north-eastern boundary of the property adjoining the Flinders Ranges National Park, connectivity has been provided between these areas for conservation purposes.
Aerial and ground based goat control programs have been conducted which have significantly reduced the impact of the threats of grazing by goats on colonies of Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby across the property. Programs to control feral cats and foxes have also been undertaken. The feral control programs have also benefitted other species including the Short-beaked Echidna with increasing sightings.
Widespread regeneration and recovery of plant communities has occurred across Arkaba in following the removal of stock and ongoing efforts to reduce grazing impacts of feral goats. Permanent monitoring sites have been established to assess the recovery of a range of vegetation communities across the property and regeneration of native plants.
Positive signs already evident include the recovery of extremely long-lived species such a Bullock Bush, Narrow-leafed Emu Bush, Oswald’s Wattle and Leafless Cherry at monitoring sites and more broadly across the property. Regeneration of other species such as Elegant Wattle, Bitter Saltbush and Copperburrs show the ability of the country to recover from prolonged grazing impacts.
Regeneration of native grasses previously grazed by stock, including Bottle-washers, Wallaby and Wire Grass, is increasing though exotic weed species are still prevalent in many areas where there was high grazing pressure such as around natural springs and waterholes and artificial waterpoints.
Natural springs and waterholes that occur at locations across the property provide critical refuge for native wildlife. The water and vegetation surrounding these areas was highly impacted by domestic stock and feral goats that concentrated in these areas during the extreme heat of summer. Permanent monitoring sites were established to assess the recovery of vegetation and water quality following the removal of stock and ongoing control of feral goats. The main assessment components are water quality, soil/bank condition and vegetation condition. Preliminary surveys found that 19% of springs were in good condition, 69% in fair condition, 12% in poor condition.
Surveys to measure the health of Red Gum communities have also been conducted along a number of major creek lines across Arkaba. Features such as the presence of regenerating or dieback of Redgums in these areas provide a snapshot of creekline health that can continue to be tracked over time. We have also conducted more detailed assessments of Redgums at permanent monitoring sites on major creeklines that include tree girth, canopy cover and health, and presence of nesting hollows.
We are seeing the fruits of our labour with the return of native species and the regeneration of native habitat.
Ongoing controls over 7 years alongside continued habitat rehabilitation through eradication of invasive non-native plants, arresting of soil erosion and the ecological surveys conducted throughout the varying habitats on Arkaba have had some exciting results:
In 2016 Arkaba was proudly announced as one of the three finalists in the Conserving the Natural World category of the esteemed National Geographic World Legacy Awards which recognises outstanding support for the preservation of nature, restoring natural habitat and protecting rare and endangered species, whether on land or in the oceans.
As part of the Wild Bush Luxury collection we make a firm commitment to the principles of sustainability and conservation while hosting guests in this ecologically unique environment.
From energy usage to waste disposal; our choice of linen; our recycling of bottles (we filter our own water and do not use plastic mineral water bottles) or our use of eco-certified cleaning materials has been carefully planned to minimise our impact on the land and we are constantly reviewing and improving our strategies
Arkaba is a proud supporter of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), the largest private owner of land for conservation in Australia, protecting endangered wildlife across more than 3.85 million hectares in iconic regions such as the Kimberley, Cape York, Lake Eyre and the Top End.
The AWC was established more than 10 years ago because Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world and a very high proportion of our surviving animals and plants (over 1,700 species) are listed as threatened with extinction (such as the Pygmy Possum pictured to the right).
“Business as usual” for conservation in Australia will mean additional extinctions. AWC is therefore developing and implementing a new model for conservation to reverse the decline in our wildlife.
Their strategy is simple:
For more information about the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the fantastic work they are doing please click here.