Renata Phelps and Don Metcalfe are the owners of Araucaria Wildlife Refuge, a property situated in Rock Valley, approximately 15km northwest of Lismore, New South Wales. The property is a wildlife sanctuary as well as a wildlife rehabilitation and release site, and the owners are currently regenerating the former grazing areas to provide improved habitat for wildlife. Renata and Don are full-time registered wildlife carers with WIRES and Friends of the Koala, and rehabilitate wallabies, gliders, possums and other native mammals. The property is utilized as a release site, and the owners have installed suitable nestboxes and on-ground nesting sites to provide habitat for released species.
Renata and Don are currently regenerating approximately 30 hectares of pasture and steep hillside with a vision to improve the soil and groundcover of the former grazing land. They also plan to revegetate the gullies and forest red gum zones on the property to facilitate the creation of wildlife corridors. Renata and Don intend to improve the existing habitat by widening the riparian zones, conducting weed control in relevant areas and managing feral predator populations. Their overall intentions are to improve the quality, connectivity and biodiversity of existing habitats in order to support endemic flora and fauna in the area.
The property provides a significant wildlife corridor between the Jiggi and Georgica Valley and the Bungabee State Forest area. Covering 40 hectares, the property is comprised of former pastoral land, native regrowth and remnant woodland. The owners have conducted ongoing rehabilitation efforts for over 20 years, particularly in the riparian zone and wildlife corridors.
Native vegetation is varied and includes old-growth forest red gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis), grey ironbark (Eucalyptus paniculata), red cedar (Toona ciliata), green bolly gum (Neolitsea australiensis), white beech (Gmelina leichhardtii), hairy rosewood (Dysoxylum rufum), plum pine (Podocarpus elatus), forest she-oak (Allocasurina torulosa), peanut tree (Sterculia quadrifida), native coral tree (Erythrina sykesii) and Bennett’s ash (Flindersia bennettii). Large stands of old-growth hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), silky oak (Grevillea robusta), flooded gum (Eucalyptus grandis), tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys), brushbox (Lophostemon confertus) and red ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) are also present. Thickets of the rare thorny pea (Desmodium acanthocladum) grow along the creek flats. The wildlife corridors on either side of the property are largely comprised of eucalypt, whilst the west and central areas of the property are populated by cabinet timber species.
Biodiversity on the property has increased alongside regeneration efforts, and a number of rare and endangered species have been sighted in the area in recent years. Among these are koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus), wompoo fruit doves (Ptilinopus magnificus) and lace monitors (Varanus varius). Regent honeyeaters (Anthochaera phrygia) may have also been sighted in the area. Renata and Don’s rehabilitation program has also increased numbers of red-necked (Macropus rufogriseus) and swamp (Wallabia bicolor) wallabies, mountain brushtail (Trichosurus cunninghami) and ringtail (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) possums, sugar (Petaurus breviceps), squirrel (Petaurus norfolcensis) and feathertail gliders (Acrobates pygmaeus), bandicoots and other native mammals.