Chicago Zoo concern for wombats leads to South Australia's Brookfield Conservation Park
The southern hairy-nosed wombat, South Australia's fauna emblem, are among Brookfield Conservation Park's rich wildlife.
Image courtesy National Parks South Australia
Chicago Zoological Society in 1971 bought a South Australian sheep station to protect the survival of the southern hairy-nosed wombat – the state’s fauna emblem.
What became the Brookfield Zoo Wombat Reserve, in the Murray Mallee130km north east of Adelaide, is now a state government conservation park of 5515 hectares.
The Chicago link to the South Australian reserve was via the director of its Brookfield Zoo, a former South Australian Museum director. The wombat reserve was run by a management committee funded by the Chicago Zoological Society until 1977 when rising costs prompted the society to give the reserve to the South Australian government.
The state environment department took on managing what became Brookfield Conservation Park in 1978. The department and Chicago zoo society agreed to set up a scientific advisory committee for the park.
In another novel step, Conservation Volunteers Australia took over managing and funding the park in an agreement with the department in 2008. Brookfield Conservation Park is a major mallee vegetation area in the Murray Darling Basin. Two thirds of the park are closed to the public to allow scientific research by local and international scientists and researchers.
Conservation Volunteers Australia members are vital to delivering cutting edge science by monitoring the wildlife.
Brookfield is rich in wildlife, besides the southern hairy-nosed wombat. It is also home to the fat-tailed dunnart, common dunnart, red and western grey kangaroos, echidnas and emus. The prolific bird life includes the vulnerable mallee fowl and Australian owlet nightjars – plus many reptiles.
Glen Leslie, the original sheep station on the site, used to run up to 2000 sheep in good times, was part of the South Australian colony’s first pastoral leases.
Brookfield Conservation Park, along the Sturt Highway between Truro and Blanchetown, is near Goyde'rs Line, enabling specialised research into the effect of climate change on species. Conservation Volunteers Australia works closely with the Friends of Brookfield Conservation Park and has become partners with land managers of adjoining properties to start biological links with nearby areas of habitat.
The aim is for Brookfield Conservation Park to be the focus for a regional network of sanctuaries and become a leading conservation volunteer and research centre in South Australia resources.