CEO, Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC)
Tell us about your organisation
AWC is a national not-for-profit organisation, with a mission to effectively conserve Australian wildlife and their habitats. We currently manage – alone or in partnership – 6.6 million hectares across 30 locations. In addition to employing a large ecological and land management team, we also collaborate with a range of government agencies, Indigenous groups and other conservation groups to deliver our mission.
We are leading the reintroduction of threatened mammals to sites within their former ranges, with active programs at 10 sites, including seven fenced feral predator-free areas and one island. These sites currently support a dozen nationally threatened mammals, with additional species to be added to our network in the next few years.
While we own most properties we manage, we also deliver land management, reintroductions and science programs for other groups, such as the Department of Defence and national parks agencies. We have also partnered with Dambimangari and Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporations to conduct joint land management and
science programs in the Kimberley.
We collaborate with other conservation NGOs through the Australia Land Conservation Alliance and in on-ground work.
Tim Allard and Grace Hornstra releasing a bilby. Image: Wayne Lawler/AWC
What Threatened Species Recovery Hub research have you been involved in?
I am a member of the hub Steering Committee, helping provide oversight to the research program. AWC is also a formal partner in the hub, the only non-university partner, reflecting our significant science capacity.
A key feature of AWC is our investment in science – at present, we employ 60 qualified ecologists to provide the information base to inform conservation management on our properties. Our ecologists work with our land managers to deliver conservation programs, helping design, implement and report on fire management, weed and feral animal control, and reintroduction and restoration projects.
Australia’s wildlife is part of our national identity, important to all of us, with a particular meaning for our Indigenous people. It is critical that, as a nation, we reverse the tide of extinctions that has affected our wildlife. This requires developing our understanding of the factors that drive species decline and ways to mitigate these threats. AWC’s research projects in the hub aim to provide information to improve the outcomes of reintroductions, and to improve control of feral cats and foxes, with the ultimate goal of allowing reintroduction of threatened species outside fenced areas into the wider landscape.
We also host a number of other hub researchers studying threatened species across our site network.
A numbat. Image: Wayne Lawler/AWC
Benefits of the collaboration
While AWC invests heavily in science, we are nevertheless constrained by our capacity in relation to the size of the challenge. Reversing the tide of extinctions requires a massive national effort, partnering high-quality science with dedicated conservation management. AWC’s involvement in the hub has given us access to a diversity of expertise in many fields relevant to conservation, from genetics and statistics through to thermoregulation and drones with thermal cameras. It has also been valuable for our ecologists to collaborate on research projects with the broader scientific community, while focused on the common objective of saving Australia’s wildlife.
Top image: Tim Allard at the feral predator-proof fence built in the Pilliga Conservation Area in a partnership between AWC and the New South Wales Government. Image:: Wayne Lawler/AWC
Professor John Woinarski of Charles Darwin University discusses the importance of averting extinctions of less charismatic animals.
The 2019–20 wildfires have severely impacted animals of all major species groups. Here, national experts on mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs and freshwater fish and crayfish present some of the key challenges for each group and how these will influence management and research priorities in the aftermath of the fires.
Cultural fire management is the way that Indigenous people have used fire to care for Country for thousands of years, and it continues today. The devastation wreaked by the 2019–20 bushfires across millions of hectares was a wake-up call for Australia and the world. Oliver Costello from the Firesticks Alliance explains how the fires demonstrated the need to listen to and care for Country.
Australia has one of the highest rates of plant endemism of any country globally. After the catastrophic fire season of 2019–20, Dr Rachael Gallagher and Professor David Keith are leading two teams to find out which species and ecological communities are most in need of immediate recovery.
The 2019–20 bushfires burnt over 12 million hectares of south-eastern and south-western Australia, causing abrupt losses of biodiversity at a scale never seen before. Over a billion animals were estimated to have died, but the figure is likely much higher. The Australian Government’s Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel is guiding the work of prioritising species and ecological communities for emergency interventions and determining what those actions should be. Hub Deputy Director and Expert Panel member Professor Sarah Legge takes us though the hows and whys of this prioritisation, and some of its challenges.