Wildlife Matters

Waulinbakh Wildlife Sanctuary

07 May. 2024
Brad Leue/AWC

Exciting progress one year on at Gorton Forest


By Alana Burton, AWC Science Communicator

Less than three hours from Sydney, amongst an endless canopy of green, Waulinbakh Wildlife Sanctuary protects 3,970 hectares on the Traditional Land of the Worimi People.

The new sanctuary name was chosen after consultation with representatives from Gloucester Worimi First Peoples Aboriginal Corporation and Cook Family of Barrington Aboriginal Corporation. Waulinbakh translates to ‘Grey Gum Place’ in Gathang, the language spoken by Birrbay (Biripi), Guringay (Gringai) and Warrimay (Worimi) people.

Over the past 12 months, Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) has kickstarted the delivery of foundational conservation science and land management programs on sanctuary, with operations led by Senior Land Management Officer – and Waulinbakh’s newest resident – Josh Guthrie.

Waulinbakh Wildlife Sanctuary, just north of Sydney, is home to threatened species like the endangered Greater Glider. Brad Leue/AWC
Waulinbakh Wildlife Sanctuary, just north of Sydney, is home to threatened species like the endangered Greater Glider (Petauroides volans).


Perhaps the most exciting achievement at Waulinbakh to date has been the extensive biodiversity monitoring conducted as part of the sanctuary’s inaugural Ecohealth program, utilising traditional observational methods together with remote-monitoring survey methods (camera traps and bioacoustic monitors) and trialling the cutting-edge technique of airborne DNA sampling. The monitoring is providing crucial baseline data against which the impacts of our work can be quantified over time, guiding management activities and informing ongoing conservation objectives to maximise outcomes for biodiversity.

While data from these inventory surveys is still being analysed, preliminary results are extremely encouraging, with more than 160 species already confirmed on sanctuary. Bioacoustic recordings have captured a symphony of bird calls, from the familiar cackle of the Laughing Kookaburra to the wailing call of the Green Catbird and melodic whistle of the Yellow-throated Scrubwren. New Holland Honeyeaters have been detected darting between blooming native flowers, while intricately patterned Brown Quails and aptly named Superb Fairy-wrens have been spotted foraging in the leaf litter below. The forest floor is also confirmed to be home to snuffling Short-beaked Echidnas, Long-nosed Bandicoots, antechinus (notorious for ‘mating to death’) and multiple wallaby species, such as the Red-necked Pademelon and the Swamp Wallaby, while velvety Greater Gliders feed quietly in the treetops.

AWC is thrilled to share some truly special wildlife encounters. We can now confirm that Waulinbakh is home to the Parma Wallaby (a small wallaby once thought to be extinct, and listed as Vulnerable nationally), Superb Lyrebird (adding this iconic Australian species to the percentage of birds AWC protects nationally), and Koala (listed as Endangered in the ACT, NSW and QLD). The sanctuary is located in an Area of Regional Koala Significance recognised by the NSW Government.

The New England Leaf-tailed Gecko (Saltuarius moritzi) is a master of camouflage. Brad Leue/AWC
The New England Leaf-tailed Gecko (Saltuarius moritzi) is a master of camouflage.


In order to maintain critical habitat and refuges for this incredible suite of species, early conservation activities have focused immediately on reducing threats in the landscape.

A core component has been extensive weed control efforts, delivered through painstaking manual removal and the targeted use of herbicides. To date, the removal of lantana has been a particular focus – left uncontrolled, this Weed of National Significance forms dense, impenetrable thickets, reducing soil animal and plant diversity and the availability of native habitat. AWC is utilising the knowledge and experience gained from successfully controlling similar lantana infestations at other sanctuaries in eastern Australia to improve habitat quality at Waulinbakh and support the regeneration of native vegetation such as spotted gum, grey ironbark, and tallowwood.

Another initial priority has been the development of a bespoke burn plan, ready for implementation in the cooler months of 2024. AWC’s Peter Stanton – one of Australia’s most experienced forest fire experts – will provide strategic advice as a long-term fire management plan is developed. Given the sanctuary acts as an important wildlife corridor, surrounded on three sides by significant natural forest and sharing a boundary with Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park and Myall River State Forest, South-east Regional Operations Manager Aled Hoggett has been liaising with neighbouring landholders, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Rural Fire Service to ensure that fire management activities at Waulinbakh are implemented in a way that can deliver ecological benefits for the broader region.

“I was already excited by the conservation potential of Waulinbakh. After spending more time on sanctuary, I am frankly astounded. The forest across the sanctuary is as diverse, and in as good an ecological condition, as any I have seen on the mid-north coast. As conservation activities are delivered, it will only become more impressive over time.”
Aled Hoggett, AWC Regional Operations Manager (South-east)

The wailing song and mechanical clicks of the Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) can be heard in rainforest habitat at Waulinbakh Wildlife Sanctuary. Brad Leue/AWC
The wailing song and mechanical clicks of the Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) can be heard in rainforest habitat at Waulinbakh Wildlife Sanctuary.


Thanks to the generosity of Andrew and Jane Clifford, Richard Harding and all of AWC’s incredible supporters, Waulinbakh has made remarkable progress over the past year. Key priorities over the next 12 months include:

  • continuing to develop relationships with Traditional Owners
  • delivering ongoing fire management in line with the sanctuary’s annual burn plan
  • expanding weed control efforts
  • commencing feral animal management (with a focus on areas where cats and foxes have been identified as present in recent surveys)
  • conducting detailed ecological surveys
  • developing key infrastructure (including staff accommodation and establishing an operations base)
  • hosting volunteer programs and sanctuary events.

We look forward to providing you with the opportunity to experience this stunning sanctuary first-hand.

Learn more about some of the species found at Waulinbakh here.


Read or download this full issue of Wildlife Matters here.

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