Wildlife Land Trust / Sanctuaries / VIC / Babile

Shelley Waterland and Stephen Brend are the owners of Babile, a property located approximately 50km southeast of Melbourne. The property is a residence and wildlife-friendly sanctuary, and it is Shelley and Stephen’s intent to rehabilitate Babile from its degraded ex-farmland state in an effort to attract and better support the needs of native wildlife species.

The property covers 7 hectares of ex-farmland, the majority of which is comprised of pasture and bracken. Stands of melaleucas are situated adjacent to a lake that provides a year-round source of water for wildlife, while eucalypts grow along the creek line.

Wildlife species known to inhabit Bubile are yet to be documented due to Shelley and Stephen’s recent occupation, however koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) and bare-nosed wombats (Vombatus ursinus) are known to be active in the area. A wide range of bird, amphibian and reptile species have additionally been sighted, particularly around the lake.

This sanctuary is featured in Wildlife Lands 16!

It would be poetic to say we opened the gate, drove across the cattle grid and began our new lives in Australia after moving from Ethiopia earlier in the year. Poetic but untrue: there was no gate. It, like so much we were confronted by on this property, had disappeared long ago, a victim of overuse, disuse, disrepair or simple neglect. What does remain is a sizeable but terribly run-down house and seven hectares of land.

Babile consists of neither pasture nor woodland, and not even heath, but is a sad amalgam of all three. Blackberries, inkweed and a host of other invasive plant species are thriving, just like the rabbits and foxes. But, along the creek there is a strip of old eucalypts, a brave stand of tea trees holding their own on the edge of one of the dams and, from the first moment, the birdlife was immediately obvious. 

The trees, birds and frogs resonated with us as they pointed towards what we both felt: the place has potential—tons of it. The house has to become our home and the land a source of sustenance for us, but also for the wildlife. There is plenty of space and opportunity for more trees, more grasses, more birds, more frogs and reptiles, and hopefully more mammals (koalas and bare-nosed wombats are active in the area). Kicking the sand off our boots we wonder (worry) how long it will take to achieve but our goal remains clear: to create a sanctuary for people and wildlife.

We are quickly trying to get up to speed with native Australian fauna and flora to rehabilitate the land into a more wildlife-friendly zone and, after discovering the Wildlife Land Trust through work connections with Humane Society International, feel we’ve found a program to help us get there. We have started on a long-term and challenging journey and hope you will share it with us.