Covering over 6 million hectares across 14 properties in the Northern Territory and Queensland, many of NAPCo’s pastoral properties remain largely in their natural state, including 385,000 hectares of dedicated nature refuge. The stations cover a diverse range of ecosystems and support significant populations of two nationally threatened mammals, the Greater Bilby and Kowari.
AWC and NAPCo have formed a historic partnership to focus on enhancing conservation programs on one of Australia's largest and oldest pastoral operations. Recognising the significant conservation values of its estate, NAPCo is committed to sustainable environmental management and protecting the flora and fauna found on its properties. This partnership extends AWC’s collaborative and pragmatic model, that sees conservation and pastoralism working side by side for the benefit of biodiversity. The success of such an arrangement has already been demonstrated at Bullo River Station and the landmark NAPCo partnership sees AWC’s conservation model extended on an unprecedented scale.
NAPCo’s properties stretch across rolling grass plains, ancient red sand dunes, spinifex-dominated ridges, flood-out country, grasslands laden with blue bush and native sorghum, through Channel Country and to the fringe of Munga-Thirri (the Simpson Desert). The major waterways of the Georgina, Burke, Hamilton, Mulligan and Diamantina Rivers carve watery pathways across the estate. One property encompasses the headwaters of the Cloncurry River and another’s homestead is on the Leichhardt River, both eventually flowing into the Gulf of Carpentaria. NAPCo properties are located in Channel Country and Mitchell Grass Downs bioregions that are not well represented in the Natural Reserve System.
From analysis of previous ecological surveys, historical records and publicly available fauna spatial distribution data, AWC scientists predict that NAPCo properties may support up to 760 vertebrate species – 99 mammal, 361 bird, 260 reptile and 40 frog species. Of these, 70 are listed as threatened.
Excitingly, a total of 31 of the species predicted to occur on NAPCo properties are not currently protected on AWC properties. Of the 31 species, 15 are listed as threatened, including the Plains Wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus), Southern Snapping Turtle (Elseya albagula), Kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei) and the tiny Collared Delma (Delma torquata).
In addition, several NAPCo properties in south-west Queensland support some of the last remaining wild populations of the Bilby (Macrotis lagotis).
In September 2020, at the invitation of NAPCo, AWC ecologists undertook a preliminary ecological assessment of two of the company’s properties: Coorabulka (629,000 hectares) and Monkira (373,000 hectares) stations in south-west Queensland. The properties support a rich diversity of arid-adapted species. Field surveys involved deploying camera traps and undertaking observational surveys for a broad array of fauna. A total of 51 bird, 10 reptile, seven mammal and six frog species were recorded. Threatened Bilbies, Kowaris and Pink Cockatoos (Lophochroa leadbeateri) were detected, as well as rare or specialist species such as Black Falcons (Falco subniger), Inland Taipans (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), Eyrean Earless Dragons (Tympanocryptis tetraporophora) and Water-holding Frogs (Cyclorana platycephala). Small mammals were abundant – of the 10,683 images of fauna collected, 2,291 were Bilbies, 139 Kowaris and 8,292 Long-haired Rats (Rattus villosissimus). Kowaris were also spotted using Bilby burrows.
AWC’s first priority under the partnership will be to assess the extant conservation values and undertake biodiversity surveys to commence building a species inventory across NAPCo’s stations. This data will inform the delivery of large-scale conservation land management actions (including research) in tandem with NAPCo’s commercial pastoral operation and will provide an important baseline against which we can measure ecological outcomes. A biodiversity-focused land management approach also has the potential to improve pastoral productivity, sustainability and profitability by improving ecosystem processes, such as nutrient cycling, and the land’s overall carrying capacity.
Feral cats were detected in 21 camera trap images and during nocturnal surveys, utilising creeklines and rocky outcrops to travel and hunt. Feral cats can pose a particular threat in this region after rain, as their numbers build up after population booms of the native Long-haired Rat. In tandem with the sustainable management of livestock, a successful program will include improving ways to predict future booms of small native mammals and our ability to target the control of feral cats in this environment.
The Bilby is an iconic Australian marsupial, instantly recognisable by its long pointed snout, long ears, soft grey fur and...
Red Goshawks have been confirmed at our Piccaninny Plains, Mornington-Marion Downs and Brooklyn sanctuaries.
AWC is developing a targeted survey program for threatened species like the Kowari on NAPCo properties in remote Queensland.