“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”
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. In some areas, the land was barren, eroded and void of many native animals and plants.
As a private wildlife conservancy we are putting 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.
Our goal is to provide a unique tourism experience with exclusive private access for our guests to enjoy the extraordinary diversity of our property.
Arkaba is located in the Flinders Ranges, an extremely important refuge for biological diversity. The mountain ranges penetrate into the arid north of South Australia, providing moist mountain habitats that extend the range of plant and animal species found in eastern and southern Australia. The area is characterised by climatic extremes with recurrent droughts, persisting for several years, that may be followed by very wet years. These types of climatic conditions occur across most of arid Australia and are known as “boom or bust” seasons.
The arid and semi-arid parts of Australia were particularly affected by the impacts of European settlement.
The introduction of European exotic animals in the 19th century was a major cause of species extinction with their greatest impacts occurring in the 20th century but the threats posed by these animals still continue today.
Feral animals such as rabbits and goats graze on native vegetation consuming a wide range of plants and competing for food with native herbivores.
Rabbit plagues were first recorded in the 1890’s but goats didn’t become a serious problem until the 1940’s following removal of the dingo.
Feral cats were present prior to European settlement and are now widespread.
It is estimated that a single feral cat kills about four to twenty native animals each night.
With approximately four million feral cats in Australia this amounts to up to 75 million a night or four billion native animals a year!
Foxes were introduced by the early settlers for sport hunting in Victoria and South Australia in the 1870’s and rapidly spread and increased in numbers.
There are now roughly 6.2 million feral red foxes in Australia, thought to be responsible for the decline of medium sized ground-dwelling mammals.
Unsustainable grazing by sheep during the early years of settlement led to the loss of some vegetation communities.
Sheep also cause damage to native vegetation that provides habitat and food resources for native animals, as well as contributing to erosion of the fragile soils.
One of our key aims is to use tourism to educate guests about the plight of Australia’s wildlife and environment. Gaining a true insight into what’s involved in conservation is one of the most rewarding experiences to be had.
Guests can also 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.
Records from the South Australian Museum state that the name Arkaba is derived from the Aboriginal word akapa meaning ‘underground (or hidden) water’. There are a large number of natural springs and waterholes across the property that 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.
Arkaba’s conservation programs received 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 this enabled an expansion of existing feral animal control programs and the establishment of permanent monitoring sites to assess the recovery of native vegetation to the removal of stock and ongoing reduction in grazing pressure from feral goats and rabbits.
At least 2 percent of your all-inclusive experience at Arkaba goes back into conservation projects.
The Conservation Levy does not increase the price of your Wild Bush Luxury experience. It is simply a guarantee that a minimum amount from your Wild Bush Luxury experience goes towards initiatives that contribute directly to protecting Australia’s biodiversity.
Funding an ecologist to conduct our vegetation and mammal surveys that enable us to track the effectiveness of our conservation programs. $350 supports a scientist providing field research for a day.
The purchase of monitoring cameras – $1,200 enables the purchase of a single camera.
The purchase of radio collars (a single radio collar costs $2,400) to provide data on both native and feral species.
The purchase of cage traps for catching feral cats. $150 purchases a single trap.
Supporting aircraft time to carry out our aerial feral cat baiting programs. $5,000 will fund a day’s aircraft ‘bait bombing’ time including baits.
Managing perimeter fences on Arkaba. $700 supports 100 metres of new fencing to prevent neighbouring sheep (feral herbivores) venturing on to Arkaba including labour.
We’re proudly celebrating over 10 years of conservation at Arkaba & we’re encouraged by what we’ve been able to achieve so far (changing the lives of 5,610,306 native animals and counting!).
We are seeing the fruits of our labour with the return of native species and the regeneration of native habitat including springs and sensitive creek line vegetation that provide refuge for native wildlife.
Ongoing control of feral animals alongside continued habitat rehabilitation through eradication of invasive non-native plants, arresting of soil erosion and ecological surveys conducted throughout the varying habitats on Arkaba have had some exciting results:
We have removed at least:
383 FERAL CATS
Helping more than 5,610,306 NATIVE ANIMALS to survive.
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 20 years ago because Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world. 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.