When the Humane Society International (HSI) was involved in the original negotiations for the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in the late 1990s, it promised a new era of environmental protection. The Federal Government had recognised its obligation to protect our environment at a national level and introduced...
Humane Society International’s private land conservation program, the Wildlife Land Trust (WLT), strives to support the wildlife and habitat protection efforts of nearly 500 landowners covering 60,000 hectares across Australia. From Carnaby’s black-cockatoos in the west through to grey-headed flying-foxes along the east coast, mahogany gliders in the north, down to forty-spotted pardalotes at the foot of Tasmania, the presence of threatened species on WLT sanctuaries around the country highlights the important role private land plays in protecting the wildlife that needs it most.
In many cases the need to safeguard habitat for threatened species has already reached crisis point, a prime example being the colony of endangered forty-spotted pardalotes at Inala, a 607 hectare WLT sanctuary on Bruny Island in Tasmania. A recent study estimated the total population of the species at a declining 1,500 individuals – but fortunately the largest stable colony was identified at Inala, making the WLT sanctuary the most significant site for forty-spotted pardalotes in the world. Without the efforts and dedicated stewardship of Dr Tonia Cochran, there is no doubt that the future of the forty-spotted pardalote would be looking far more dismal – Inala gives them a fighting chance.
WLT sanctuary ‘Inala’ is the most significant site in the world for forty-spotted pardalotes. Image: Andrew Browne
Not all WLT sanctuaries provide such a major contribution to threatened species protection individually, though when considered collectively they are seen to play a huge role in the bigger picture through habitat connectivity, providing recovery sites for species, and a strong presence in biodiversity hotspots.
Saving our Species (SOS) is a conservation program run by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage that aims to secure threatened species in the wild. Conservation projects are run at key management sites across the state in an attempt to secure species with discrete populations.
Comparing the locations of Wildlife Land Trust sanctuaries in New South Wales with SOS sites, we found that around two thirds of our NSW members intersect with key locations for the protection and recovery of threatened species such as the yellow-spotted tree frog, regent honeyeater, eastern chestnut mouse, Bathurst copper butterfly, and Minyon quandong.
More than 20 WLT sanctuaries provide habitat for endangered cassowaries. Image: Rob Tidley
Many other threatened species with restricted ranges outside NSW, such as the southern cassowary, also benefit significantly from the efforts of Wildlife Land Trust members. More than 20 WLT sanctuaries covering in excess of 1,000 hectares in the Wet Tropics of Queensland provide habitat for these endangered cassowaries, with HSI also financially assisting organisations for the acquisition of cassowary habitat.
The Great Eastern Ranges (GER) initiative is based on the principles of connectivity conservation – creating linkages between protected areas and other core habitats – and aims to bring people and organisations together to protect, link, and restore land through a corridor running from western Victoria to far north Queensland.
Threatened species cannot be saved by the public reserve system alone, with even the largest protected areas essentially acting as ‘islands’ of habitat. The WLT has been a National Partner of the GER for several years, with our member sanctuaries acting as important refuges for native flora and fauna and increasing connectivity along the east coast.
WLT member sanctuaries act as important refuges for native flora and fauna in the GER. Image: Susanne Ulyatt
A strong presence of conservation landholders within the GER are united through their WLT membership, with approximately two thirds of our Australian members located inside the corridor. These sanctuaries cover tens of thousands of hectares of habitat for wildlife, including threatened species such as the spotted-tailed quoll, koala, sugar glider, and glossy black-cockatoo.
Biodiversity hotspots are the places on earth richest in biodiversity. Conservation International has identified 35 global biodiversity hotspots which, while representing just 2.3% of the planet’s land surface, collectively support more than half of the world’s plant diversity and 43% of bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species. The hotspots have all lost at least 70% of their original habitat, and two are in Australia: the Forests of Eastern Australia; and Southwest Australia.
WLT sanctuaries and Global Biodiversity Hotspots
The Wildlife Land Trust has a great presence in these areas, with (once again!) two thirds of current member sanctuaries protecting habitat within them. All 4,000 hectares of the 31 current Western Australian WLT sanctuaries fall within the bounds of the Southwest Australia hotspot, contributing to the preservation of habitat for a plethora of threatened species. Among these are iconic animals such as the greater bilby, numbat, quokka, chuditch and woylie, as well as birdlife including malleefowl and forest red-tailed, Baudin’s, and Carnaby’s black cockatoos. WLT sanctuaries in Southwest Australia also provide habitat for the tiny nectar and pollen-feeding honey possum, which is the only member of its Family.
Threatened Species and WLT Wildlife Rehabilitators
The owners of more than 200 Wildlife Land Trust sanctuaries are actively involved in the care of orphaned or injured wildlife. While many of the species commonly cared for (such as eastern grey kangaroos, bare-nosed wombats and brush-tailed possums) are relatively abundant, WLT members also play a key conservation role through the rehabilitation and release of threatened wildlife.
Among these species are Tasmanian devils, red-legged pademelons, southern cassowaries, mahogany gliders, spectacled and grey-headed flying-foxes, and eastern quolls. The sole purpose of dozens of WLT sanctuaries is to rehabilitate wildlife, and among them is Jenny Maclean’s Tolga Bat Hospital, which features world-class facilities and offers a volunteer program for the care of several bat and flying-fox species.
More than 200 Wildlife Land Trust sanctuaries are actively involved in the care of orphaned or injured wildlife. Image: Evan Quartermain
With our already battered biodiversity under increasing pressure nationally, there is no doubt that the rapidly growing Wildlife Land Trust network will play an ever-more important role in protecting threatened wildlife and their habitats. Our members’ efforts continue to inspire us!
Do you own an acre or more of wildlife-friendly land? Join the free and inclusive WLT network today!