Conservation matters

CONSERVATION AT ARKABA

We're proudly celebrating 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 can't wait to get stuck into our fully endorsed conservation plan for the future.

So what is the Conservation Levy?

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. Whole-hearted thanks for supporting the conservation work we love doing. We wouldn’t exist and your wildlife experience would be vastly different without it! To experience Arkaba in a state of positive change extends your immersive experience into an enriching one. We look forward to seeing you ‘out in the field’ and showing you the real and very visible difference your stay at Arkaba makes.

What conservation work your levy contributes to:

SURVEY WORK
MONITORING CAMERAS
RADIO COLLARS
TRAP WORK
SUPPORTING AIRCRAFT
MANAGING PERIMETER FENCING

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.

Opportunities for guests to participate

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.  

 

The issues

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 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 with an estimated 24 of 50 small to medium-sized mammals known to have inhabited the Flinders Ranges now considered extinct and some birds and reptiles all but disappeared.

Why?
– 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 did 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 4 – 20 native animals each night. With approximately 4 million feral cats in Australia this amounts to up to 75 million a night or 4 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 and damage to native vegetation more broadly that provides habitat and food resources for native animals as well as contributing to erosion of the fragile soils.

Our efforts

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 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.

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.

Our Objectives

1. Increase the area of native habitat and vegetation managed to reduce critical threats to biodiversity and enhance the connectivity and resilience of habitats and landscapes.

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 Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, connectivity has been provided between these areas for conservation purposes.

2. Reduce the threats posed to the species of conservation significance by pest species on Arkaba.

Aerial and ground based goat control programs 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 benefited other species including the Short-beaked Echidna with increasing sightings.

Arkaba emu

3. Reduction in grazing pressure from domestic stock and feral animals on native vegetation communities.

Widespread regeneration and recovery of plant communities has occurred across Arkaba  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. A summary of the preliminary results from vegetation monitoring can be found here.

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, Shrubby Riceflower and Mealy Saltbush 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.

4. Reduction in grazing pressure from domestic stock and feral animals on permanent springs and waterholes and riparian vegetation communities on Arkaba.

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. 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 in 2015 found that 19% of springs were in good condition, 69% in fair condition, 12% in poor condition. Follow-up surveys conducted in 2017 found an improvement in 9 of 14 springs visited with 43% of springs in good condition and 29% in very good condition based on the Index of Riparian Spring Condition. None of the springs surveyed in 2017 were rated as poor, demonstrating signs of recovery of these sensitive areas in response to our current management.

Surveys to measure the health of River Red Gum communities have also been conducted along a number of major creek lines across Arkaba. Features such as the presence of regenerating or die-back of Redgums in these areas provide a snapshot of creek line health that can continue to be tracked over time. We have also conducted more detailed assessments of Redgums at permanent monitoring sites on major creek lines that include tree girth, canopy cover and health, and presence of nesting hollows in these iconic trees of inland Australia.

Our success

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 over 10 years 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:

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Goats removed
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Foxes disappeared
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Feral cats no longer
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Native animals lived

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.

Our ongoing commitment

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

Australian Wildlife Conservancy

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:

  • Establish sanctuaries by acquiring land and through partnerships with landholders; and
  • Implement practical land management – feral 
animal control and fire management – informed by good science.

For more information about the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the fantastic work they are doing please click here.

Pygmy possum

You can participate in conservation activities.