Almost 10,000 acres of lush forest habitat in the NSW Hunter region is now protected for conservation after Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) entered a new agreement to preserve an area of regional Koala significance and establish a new sanctuary.
Situated less than three hours north of Sydney, Gorton Forest Sanctuary is part of a conservation agreement with philanthropists and long-time AWC supporters Andrew and Jane Clifford to manage a private estate. Located on the Traditional Lands of the Worimi Nation, AWC is seeking to consult with the Local Aboriginal Land Council on an appropriate name for the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is a wonder of topographically complex ridges and ranges, shifting from dry sclerophyll forests at the peaks to dense, wet rainforest in the deeper gullies. The sanctuary provides vital habitat for many forest-dwelling species.
Greg Holland, AWC’s South-East Regional Ecologist, said the property provides opportunities to protect and enhance the populations of many species, including the Koala, recently declared an Endangered species in NSW, QLD and ACT.
“The sanctuary contains habitat for many species that do not currently occur within the network of AWC sanctuaries and partnership areas,” Holland said. “It is quite an amazing place with intact native vegetation, so we expect there will be a whole suite of small native mammals that call this place home.”
AWC scientists estimate that the sanctuary likely supports more than 100 different vertebrate species of which 12 are listed as threatened. These threatened species include the Yellow-bellied Glider (Petaurus australis), Golden-tipped Bat (Phoniscus papuensis), Glossy Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) and Green-thighed Frog (Litoria brevipalmata).
Tim Allard, AWC’s Chief Executive Officer, said small mammals across NSW and Australia are facing many threats, particularly predation by feral cats and foxes, and habitat loss and degradation. This new sanctuary will enable us to reduce the impacts on wildlife in this critical landscape, while also expanding Australia’s conservation footprint.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity gifted by Andrew and Jane Clifford to manage a private estate. The new sanctuary will provide better outcomes for unique and iconic species in NSW and help restore crucial habitat,” said Tim.
The success of this new sanctuary is important not only for the future of native wildlife but for the conservation landscape of Australia. It will demonstrate what can be done with private land to create better outcomes for Australia’s biodiversity and provide hope for threatened native wildlife and habitats.
Following on from the Cliffords’ extraordinary initiative, another AWC supporter, Richard Harding, has pledged up to $332,278 to underpin management of the property in the first year. Richard has set a challenge to AWC’s community of passionate supporters to help reach the goal of raising $664,555 for this purpose by Christmas.
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