The western quoll is among endangered species to be reintroduced in the wildlife sanctuary at the foot of Yorke Peninsula. 

FENCE TO KEEP PREDATORS OUT OF LARGEST
OPEN WILDLIFE SANCTUARY IN AUSTRALIA

at the foot of the southern Yorke Peninsula

 

AUSTRALIA’S LARGEST OPEN RANGE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY is the vision behind a 23-kilometre 1.8 metre high fence to be built in 2019 across the foot of South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.

The project, called the Great Southern Ark: The Rewilding of Southern Yorke Peninsula — aims to bring back many native species into their former range and restore natural ecology by shutting out feral predators.

The end goal is to provide positive agricultural, biodiversity and economic benefits for the Yorke Peninsula. Endangered species such as the southern brown bandicoots and western quolls would be reintroduced to the ark area. Bringing back the quolls and brown owls aim to reduce agricultural pests such as mice and rabbits and brush-tailed bettons improve soil quality.

The state government’s Northern and Yorke Natural Resources Board is managing the predator management fence for rewilding that received high community support from residents and landowners for its benefits in biodiversity, production, economic and social benefits.

A wide consortium of groups involved in the project include WWF Australia, Zoos SA, FAUNA Research Alliance, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Yorke Peninsula Tourism, Regional Development Australia, Yorke Peninsula Council, Nature Conservation Society of SA, Greening Australia, Trees for Life, Ag Excellence Alliance, and Legatus.

 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS IN PREHISTORY OF THE PLANET

SHAPING EARTH AND AUSTRALIA IN GEOLOGICAL BIG BANGS:
Lake Acraman meteor big hit, Endiacaran and Cambrian periods

South Australia a key to Earth story with meteor hit, first multi-cell life and Cambrian creatures

The part of the Earth we now call South Australia has produced significant moments in the planet's deep history. South Australia was once part of Gondwana, the supercontinent that broke up about 180 million years ago into landmasses of today’s Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, Indian subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula. South Australia’s significant moments in Earth life happened before Gondwana broke up and when South Australia was at the Equator and mostly under the Adelaidean Sea. Those significant moments are the four-kilometre wide meteorite hitting at what is now Lake Acraman; the Ediacaran start of multi-cellular life on Earth, found in the Ediacaran Hills of the Flinders Range; and the Cambrian period  when the first predators appeared, with their fossils found around Emu Bay on Kangaroo Island. In the Gondwana supercontinent, South Australia adjoined what is now Antarctica. The Flinders Ranges today are miniscule compared to their ancient versions shaped by the collisions of the continental plates. South Australia – and Australia – was worn down by catastrophic events such as ice ages that froze oceans, including the Adelaidean Sea covering the southern half of South Australia, including the Flinders Ranges. The Lake Acraman meteor that hit South Australia plunged into the Adelaidean Sea and, besides its global effect, the debris from the impact is all around the Flinders Ranges where the first evidence of multi-celled life on Earth, from 600-570 million years ago, was found.

Supervolcano of Gawler Ranges 1.6 billion years ago leaves the legacy of Olympic Dam ore riches

The remnants of a supervolcano found in the Gawler Ranges of South Australia drawfs the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest active supervolcano today on Earth. Gawler Ranges, stoney hills to the north of Eyre Peninsula, were formed by the supervolcano nearly 1.6 billion years ago. It spread a lava field 500 kilometres in diameter and up to 300 metres thick. The total lava was as high as 500,000 cubic kilometres – enough to fill Sydney Harbour a million times over. The lava reached temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius and erupted from the volcano almost instantaneously. The phenomenon left the world's largest hydrothermal deposit: a spectacular ore system with huge reserves of copper, uranium, silver and gold. Olympic Dam mine area, with about nine billion tonnes of ore, and OZ Minerals’ Carrapateena project are extracting the bounty of these hugely enriched ore-forming volcanic fluids. Bornhardts – dome-shaped steep bald rock outcrops – dominate the landscape of Gawler Ranges, traditional home of Gugada Aboriginal people. The ranges were given their European name by Edward John Eyre in honour of the South Australia's second governor George Gawler in 1839. On this expedition, Eyre made the first recorded sighting of South Australia's floral emblem: the Sturt desert pea. The 100-metre-wide sloping granite Coralbignie (Houlderoo) Rocks are another of the Gawler Ranges' features on the South Australian heritage register.

Earth's biggest gravity warp in fault-zone area of northwest South Australia near Marla

The Earth’s biggest gravity warp exerts itself in an area just north of the South Australian outback town of Marla, 1,100 kilometres northwest of Adelaide. This phenomenon is an upshot of complex geological movements half a billion years in the region of what is now the junction of the South Australian, Northern Territory and Western Australian borders. For the Marla area, the effect was on the layer – called the mantle – underneath the Earth’s crust. In the Marla area, the mantle rises 30 kilometres closer to the Earth’s surface than elsewhere. The direct cause of this is the Woodroffe Thrust Fault from the north confronting the Mann Fault from the south. This combined east-west fault zone has created a subterranean mountain out of the Earth’s mantle that’s so large it actually warps the Earth's gravity field. Dr Tom Raimondo, a geoscientist and program director for environmental and geospatial science at the University of South Australia, describes the actual effect of the fault zone: Gravitational acceleration is faster in the red areas at the core of the fault zone compared to the blue areas either side. The difference in gravity along the fault zone is so dramatic that it has been recognised as the largest continental gravity gradient anywhere in the world. So if you were to drop a rock on your foot on the journey from Adelaide to Darwin, better to do it at a fuel stop in Marla than while sightseeing at the border of South Australia and the Northern Territory — the lower gravity at Marla means the rock will be slightly lighter so it might hurt a little less”.

South Australia's great glacial geology inspires Douglas Mawson's two Antarctic expeditions

Douglas Mawson’s legendary expeditions to the Antarctic (1907 and 1911) were inspired by his interest in the glacial geology he found in South Australia. Mawson’s idea for going to the Antarctic was to see an existing continental icecap and to become acquainted with glaciation and its geological consequences. This interested him because, in his South Australian studies, he was “face-to-face with a great accumulation of glacial sediments of Precambrian age, the greatest thing of the kind recorded anywhere in the world”. (Mawson’s expeditions preceded knowledge of South Australia’s geological link to Antarctica as part of the Gondwana supercontinent.) Mawson came to Adelaide in 1905 as lecturer in mineralogy and petrology at the university in 1905. A pioneer in the chemical aspects of geology and geochemistry, Mawson's immediate interest in South Australia’s glacial geology led to him identifying the mineral davidite, containing titanium and uranium, from the region now known as Radium Hill. He investigated the highly mineralised Precambrian rocks of the Barrier Range, from the northern Flinders Ranges to Broken Hill. Mawson's Antarctic expeditions, especially  in 1911, collected huge scientific data. Mawson returned to Adelaide University in 1919 and his main interest during the next 30 years remained the “Adelaide System” of Precambrian rocks, especially in the Flinders Ranges. He concentrated on Proterozoic stratigraphy and Precambrian glaciation, showing glacial beds extended for 1,497 km and glacial conditions existed intermittently over much of Proterozoic time.

Lake Acraman on Eyre Peninsula marks huge hit from a 4km meteor 580 million years ago

The Acraman eroded crater, from the impact of a meteor hit about 580 million years ago, is marked by the dry Lake Acraman, 20 kilometres in diameter, in South Australia’s Gawler Ranges on Eyre Peninsula. The meteor's size has been estimated as four kilometres, having a global cataclysmic effect, with an energy release equal to 5.2 × 106 megatons of TNT, from its hit, estimated at 90 kilometres wide. A layer of ejecta (debris) from the Acraman crater is found within Ediacaran rocks of the Flinders Ranges 300 kilometres east of the crater and in drill holes from the Officer Basin to the north. The impact would have happened when these areas were under the shallow Adelaidean Sea and the ejecta settled into mud on the sea floor. The ejecta is associated with an iridium anomaly, suggesting contamination with extraterrestrial material. The nearness of the crater to the Flinders Ranges and its Ediacara early-life organisms has been noted. The effect of the Lake Acraman impact also has been linked to evidence of ice glaciers, going back hundreds of million of years, in South Australian locations such as Chambers Bluff in the far north Indulkana Range, the Tillite Gorge near Arkaroola, the northern end of Flinders Ranges and Mount Gunson north of Port Augusta. (Lake Acraman impact structure, listed on the South Australian heritage register, is named, along with the lake and a creek, after 19th Century Adelaide businessman John Acraman, also credited as father of Australian football in the South Australian colony.)

Ediacaran Hills fossils confirmed as animals from 570-540 million years ago in evolution

The fossil imprints found in the Ediacaran Hills of South Australia’s Flinders Ranges are from soft-bodied animals that lived 570-540 millions years ago. This Ediacaran biota is the start of complex multi-celled life on Earth. It represents the first known departure from single-cell creatures of 1000 million years earlier. The Ediacaran animals are an earlier stage of the evolution of complex life on Earth than the Cambrian period that left fossil evidence around Emu Bay on South Australia's Kangaroo Island, as well as southern China and the Burgess Shale in Canada. The status of Ediacaran fossils as animals was only in confirmed in 2018 after the discovery in northwest Russia of a specimen of Dicksonia – one of the Ediacaran animal species – preserved well enough to have fat molecules. The value of the Ediacaran fossils has been long debated because they were only imprints of soft-bodied creatures that had left no organic trace. But what the Ediacaran fossils' lack in organic geochemistry is made up for in richness of the excavated samples of imprints of creatures on the floor of what would have been Adelaidean Sea. Dickinsonia was a soft-bodied creature that belonged to a weird group of 80 organisms known as Ediacaran biota. They lived at a time when life on Earth suddenly jumped up from microscopic organisms to two-metre creatures. Ediacaran biota is when life got very big at a very fast rate but the species went extinct 540 million years ago. The first Ediacaran fossils were discovered in the Ediacaran Hills in the Flinders Ranges in 1946. 

Kangaroo Island's Emu Bay significant site for Cambrian fossils from 520 million years ago

Fossils found at Emu Bay on Kangaroo Island play a significant role the story of in the Cambrian period, a 53-million-years explosion of evolved life on Earth. The Emu Bay lower Cambrian shale has been dated at 520 million years old. Remains of creatures found at Big Gully near Emu Bay are notable as having the oldest with phosphatised muscle tissue and being well preserved. Emu Bay also produced Anomalocaris, A. briggsi, a new species of anomalocarids: flat, segmented predator animals with two grasping appendages in front of their mouths. At about 60cm long, A. briggsi, is one of the largest known animals from the Cambrian era. Big Gully offers evidence of its giant version of Anomalocaris preying on trilobites, the most common Cambrian fossils, including the well-preserved specimens of Hsuepsis bilobata and Redlichia takooensis (up to 25cm long, found in 1954 by Adelaide University geology lecturer Brain Daily). The wounds on a tribolite Naraoia from Big Gully offers the strongest evidence of bring preyed on by Anomalocaris. Other finds at Big Gully have included Xandarella (spider-like arthropod), Isoxys and Tuzoia (crustaceans with sells) and Paleoscolex (worm-like animals with a small head made up of four outward “nipples”). Emu Bay is ranked in the middle, age wise, between the Chengjiang deposits in southern China and the slightly younger Burgess Shale in Canada as significant Cambrian fossil sites. The Emu Bay assemblage of deposits are different in being from  shallow water and its biota characterised by  extensive mineralised labile soft tissue.

Reg Sprigg's Ediacaran fossil find 1946 among great insights to geology of South Australia

Reg Sprigg, who discovered the 570-540-million-years-old Ediacaran fossil imprints in the Flinders Ranges in 1946, set off a long fight by the Adelaide school of thought to have the Flinders species recognised for their part in the story of evolution of life on Earth, Sprigg’s argument that the fossil imprints found in Ediacaran Hills of the Flinders Ranges were from before the Cambrian geological age (540 to 490 million years ago) was rejected by the journal Nature and the 1948 International Geological Congress. It took until 2004 for the Ediacaran Period, the first new geological era in more than 100 years, to be recognised. The Ediacaran fossil find was only part of Reg Sprigg’s contribution to South Australian prehistory. Fascinated by geology from childhood, Sprigg began studying at Adelaide University in 1937 under renowned geologists and Antarctic explorers Douglas Mawson and Cecil Madigan. Sprigg was among the first to theorise about climate change. In 1948, he formed a theory – also rejected by the International Geological Congress – that sand dunes at Beachport and Robe in South Australia's south-east resulted from sea level changes and glacial melting. He was the first to propose a theory about the geological formation of Adelaide's landscape due to the Earth's crust movement (before plate tectonics was known). He discovered some of the deepest undersea canyons, south of Kangaroo Island, about the size of the American Grand Canyon. To confirm his discoveries, he took up scuba diving, and built his own boat and his own diving chamber.

Spectacular under-sea canyons left south of Kangaroo Island by ice-age River Murray mouth

Spectacular under-sea canyons, south of Kangaroo Island, are the products of South Australia's most recent ice age of much lower sea levels when the River Murray mouth was 200 kilometres further south. The erosive power of a much more turbulent Murray is seen in the spectacular underwater canyons it left. These incredible features near Kangaroo Island reach lengths of 80 kilometres and depths of more than 5,000 metres — more than twice the height of Mount Kosciusko. One of the largest of the under-sea canyons south of Kangaroo Island is named after the geologist Reg Sprigg, who discovered them with Royal Australian Navy help in 1947. Going back about two million years, a rise in sea level flooded the South Australian River Murray valley and it became an estuary that extended north of North West Bend. The evidence for this is the thick beds of oyster shells in the lower Marne Valley, at Morgan and elsewhere. The River Murray has remained an elongated oasis in South Australia with its water, fish and shellfish – plus natural shelters in the base of its cliffs. The excavation of one of these shelters in 1929 at Devin Downs (Ngautngaut), near Nildottie, by Herbet Hale and Norman Tindale of the South Australian Museum was an Australian landmark in discovering the Aboriginal past. After digging through six metres of rock-shelter deposit and layers of faunal remains, stone and bone tools, their detailed memoir remained obscure until after World War II when radiocarbon 14 dating of the charcoal and shell samples proved the site’s occupation by Aboriginal people through 5000 years.

DESERTS, LAKE EYRE, NULLABOR, FLINDERS, RIVER MURRAY BIG ANCIENT GEOLOGICAL FEATURES

CAVES, VOLCANOES, SINKHOLES, LAKES ON LIMESTONE COAST
giving a vivid picture of South Australia's geological recent past

Nearly nine deserts are now South Australia's geological legacy from ancient past as seabed

South Australia had nearly nine deserts. The Great Victoria is Australia’s largest, stretching 700km from South Australia’s Gawler Ranges tinto Western Australia, with 348,750 square kilometres of sandhills, grassplans plains, gibber plains and salt lakes. Mulga shrubs are scattered over spinifex grasses. The Simpson, 176,500 square kilometres in central Australia, has world’s longest parallel sand dunes, three to 30 metres high, and displayed in brilliant white to dark red, pinks and oranges. Strzlecki Desert, northeast of Lake Eyre, has extensive dunes and three wilderness areas. Its Cobbler sandhills near Lake Blanche are small eroded knolls, mostly with vegetation on the top. Sturt Stony Desert, in the northeast on the elevated Gason Dome, is linked to the Tirari-Sturt Stony Desert and Tirari Desert. The Tirari has more sand dunes than the Sturt Stony Desert, along chenop, mallee and mulga wooded scrubland,. The desolate Painted Desert, 120 kilometres north-east of Coober Pedy, is notable for tablelands, mountains and large areas of mica. A seabed 80 million years ago, its soft, fragile rock has eroded, leaving its Arckaringa Hills in shades of orange, yellow, and white shale. The small Pedirka Desert is only about 1,250 square kilometres, 100km northwest of Oodnadatta, has deep-red sand, dense mulga woodlands and low dunes. South Australia's "nearly" desert is the Ninety Mile Desert – former name for Coonalpyn Downs, alongside the Coorong, developed by the AMP Society in 1949 and now with its own district council plus electricity and water supply in the 1960s.

Flinders Ranges arise from the sea as part of Adelaide Rift Complex 500 million years ago

The Flinders, going from Crystal Brook near Port Pirie more than 400 km to Lake Callabonna in the north, are South Australia’s biggest mountain range. Its most characteristic landmarks are Wilpena Pound amphitheatre and St Mary Peak. The range’s origins have been placed at 800 million years ago when Australia’s east coast lifted out of the sea, creating a deep inland hollow where the sea flowed in, depositing huge amounts of rock and sediment. The creatures that left the range’s important Ediacaran period fossil imprints emerged on this Adelaide Sea floor. Plate movements of the Earth’s crust caused the Adelaide Rift Complex about 500 million years ago. This brought folding, buckling and faulting that created the Flinders and Mount Lofty ranges extending down the Fleurieu Peninsula and onto Kangaroo Island. The Flinders and Mount Lofty ranges are now mere stumps of their peak sizes. The Flinders Ranges’ flora are largely semi-arid species, including sugar gum, cypress pine, mallee and black oak. With dingos eradicated and stock waterholes in place, red kangaroos, western grey kangaroos and wallaroos have increased. The yellow-footed rock wallaby has survived European hunting and foxes. The many birds include parrots, galahs, emus and wedge-tailed eagles. Goannes, snakes, dragon lizards, skinks and geckoes are among the reptiles while the streambank froglet is endemic to the ranges. The Flinders Ranges are part of the Tirari-Sturt stony desert, a World Wildlife Fund ecoregion.

Kati Thandi-Lake Eyre low internal drainage centre for big erratic Australian water basin

Kati Thandi-Lake Eyre, in the northern South Australian desert, is the internal drainage centre for a million-square-kilometres basin covering almost a sixth of Australia, including large parts of the Northern Territory and Queensland. At Australia's lowest point (15.2 metres below sea level), it is Earth’s fourth largest terminal lake, at 9,690 square kilometres. The shallow Kati Thandi-Lake Eyre, formed by tectonic movement in the glacial Pleistocene (1.6 million to 10,000 years ago) epoch, receives only a tiny amount of the water from its flat basin that’s dispersed over months-long journeys through braided channels, floodplains, waterholes and wetlands. The north and south parts of the lake only rarely fill (such as in 1950, 1974, 1984, 2018) to a maximum depth of 3.7 metres. But heavy monsoon rain can bring partial fills that attract extraordinarily large flocks of water birds, most notably pelicans and banded stilts to the basin to breed, attracted by the masses of aquatic invertebrates. Abundant and varied fish seem to come from nowhere accompanied by the calls of a big variety of frogs. Several regions contain rare plants, snakes are unusually diverse, and small mammals, such as the kowari, rare or extinct in the rest of Australia. When the lake is full, it has the same salinity as the sea but, as the water rapidly evaporates, salinity increases and adds to the level salt crust that enabled Donald Campbell's Bluebird II in 1964 to reach his world record 644 km/per hour. Native title over the lake n is held by the Arabana people. A Lake Eyre Yacht Club was formed in 2000 to enjoy the floods

Nullarbor: where a vast arid plain meets the Southern Ocean at a cliff face of myriad caves

The vast arid Nullarbor Plain spectacularly and suddenly meets the Southern Ocean at the Bunda Cliffs in South Australia. The plain covers 200,000 square kilometres between the Great Australian Bight and the Great Victoria Desert. It goes for 1,256 kilometres from South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula to the Western Australian goldfields. The plain is a former shallow seabed, with bryozoans, foraminifera, echinoids and red algae skeletons making up its limestones formed in five stages. The area possibly was lifted by Earth’s crust movements in Miocene (23 million to five million years ago) era. An already flat area would have been further eroded by wind and rain. With its topography of karst – soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite and gypsum ­– the Southern Ocean blows through its through many subterranean caves, resulting in blowholes up to several hundred metres from the coast. It has created large caves such as the Murrawijinie in South Australia. The Nullarbor is known for extensive meteorite deposits that have been extremely well preserved in the arid climate. Nullarbor is Latin for “no trees” but the plan is covered with bluebush and mulga scrub – and wildflowers after rain. 

Marsupial lion among fossils of megafauna found at world-heritage listed Naracoorte caves

Naracoorte Caves, in South Australia’s south east, have become world heritage-listed (1994) as one of the best fossil sites where megafauna including, marsupial lions (thylacoleo carnifex), giant kangaroos (procoptodon goliah) and a five-metre snake (Wonambi naracootensis) died when they fell in and were preserved by layers of sand. Naracoorte Caves formed around a million years ago, within the Gambier limestone from around 12-37 million years ago during the late Eocene or Miocene epochs. The nearly 20 species of well-preserved megafauna, including nine species of extinct kangaroos, is from around 500,000 to less than 1,000 years ago, making a modern ecosystem record. Clues to Naracoorte’s past are also preserved in plant fossils, sediments and calcite. In 1857, using a candle, Julian Tenison-Woods (the palaeontologist priest who founded the Sisters of St Joseph’s order with Mary MacKillop) stumbled across thousands of tiny bones of rodents and small marsupials buried at the base of crystal columns in the caves. These were the victims of predators, such as owls, who used the caves. Global science first focused on Naracoorte after 1969, when explorers entered difficult-to-access limestone chambers. Unlike most fossil localities, the Naracoorte caves have many adjacent sites. This allows scientists to compare finds over a long time span. The state  government oversees tourism, conservation and research at the caves that add to Limestone Coast geological attractions including volcanoes and some of the world’s largest sinkholes.

Mount Gambier's Blue Lake an enigmatic legacy of volcano from 28,000-6,000 years ago

The Blue Lake is one of four shallow volcanic crater lakes near Mount Gambier (named after the extinct volcano) on south-east South Australia’s Limestone Coast. Only two of the lakes remain; Leg of Mutton and Brown dried up over 30 to 40 years as the water table dropped. Dates for the volcano’s eruption vary from 28,000 years to 6,000 years ago – which would make it the most recent on the Australian mainland. Blue Lake’s average depth is 72 metres but a natural cave section could take its deepest point to 204 metres. Early each November, the lake's sombre blue during winter changes to an intense deep turquoise blue almost overnight. This colouring remains until late February, when it gradually changes. From late March, it returns to a distinct sombre blue. Cause of this phenomenon is still up for conjecture but likely it involves the warming of the surface layers of the lake during the summer to around 20 °C causing calcium carbonate to precipitate out of the solution and enabling microcrystallites of calcium carbonate to form. This scatters the blue wavelengths of sunlight. An obelisk beside the lake marks poet Adam Lindsay Gordon’s daring feat in 1865 when he made his famed leap on horseback over an old post and rail guard fence onto a narrow ledge overlooking the Blue Lake and jumped back again onto the roadway. The 3.6 kilometre road and walking track around the Blue Lake gives access to many viewing points, the most popular being the underpass between the Blue Lake and the Leg of Mutton Lake.
 

South Australia's south east cluster of 20 water-filled ancient sinkholes a major diving attraction

South Australia’s south-east Limestone Coast region around Mount Gambier has about 50 sinkholes, one of Earth’s largest concentrations. Twenty of those sinkholes are cenotes: filled with water, because they're below the water line. The sinkholes have been formed from the Limestone Coast’s long-term exposure to ocean water and waves that have created many large caves, with their entrances blocked off by erosion and caveins. When the ceiling of the cave collapses, a sinkhole is formed. Fossil Cave (formerly The Green Waterhole), at Tantanoola, about 22 kilometres from Mount Gambier, is largely filled with water and, during the 1960s-80s, divers from the South Australian Museum, South Australian Underwater Speleological Society, Flinders University Underwater Club and Allum and Garrad first surveyed the 30-million-year old Oligocene coralline limestone site. Pleistocene subfossil material of birds and mammals, from 15,000 to 40,000 years ago, was found to a depth of about 15 metres. Access for cave diving is limited to holders of the Cave Divers Association of Australia’s advanced grade. The association has also worked closely with the fourth-generation Kilsby family whose sheep farm near Mount Gember is home to one of the deepest and clearest sinkholes, renowned worldwide. Other water-filled sinkholes near Mount Gamier include the three at Ewen Ponds, and the Little Blue Lake. Not water-filled, but another south-east sinkhole attraction, is the Umpherston, also near Mount Gambier, that has become a spectacular sunken garden.
 

Coorong, a haven for birdlife, created by sand dunes from 80,000 to 120,000 years ago

The Coorong, 152 km from Adelaide, is a set of complex and ancient sand dunes ranging from 80,000 to 120,000 years ago. The modern Coorong was formed between 6,000 and 20,000 years ago when the sea rose to form an island on top of the 80,000-year-old dune. This produced a lagoon behind the present line of seaward dunes. Many access points from the sea to the lagoon were filled over time by wind and the sands to create a narrow neck of sand dunes stretching 130km along the south-east coast of South Australia. The Coorong has some of Australia’s most spectacular birdlife around its series of mudflats, low-lying vegetation and lakes. Huge cranes, swans, pelicans, sandpipers, terns, white-faced herons, ibis, kites, galahs, rosellas, wattlebirds and currawongs join the variety of freshwater and saltwater birds. About 240 species of bird use The Coorong as their home. Some migrate from as far away as Siberia, China and Japan. Its fauna includes western grey kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, possums, snakes and the waters are still rich in mulloway, mullet and bream. Five Aboriginal tribal groupings – the Ngarrindjeri – lived on The Coorong (named from the local Aboriginal word “kurangh” for “neck”). They made bark and reed canoes, lived on the fish and molluscs in the area, and built shelters against the cold Southern Ocean winds. They were decimated by the arrival of Europeans, bringing smallpox, that raged all along the Murray River, and massacres that cut their numbers from about 3200 in 1842 to 511 by 1874. 

River Murray's mighty struggle ends in South Australia at Lake Alexandrina and ocean

The River Murray, Australia’s longest at 2,508 kilometres, rises in the Australian Alps and eventually as it flows to the northwest into South Australia where it turns south at Morgan for its final 315 kilometres, reaching the Southern Ocean at Lake Alexandrina and the Coorong. The Murray River is part of the 3,750-km Murray-Darling system that’s the catchment for one seventh of Australia’s land mass. Between 2.5 and 0.5 million years ago, the Murray ended in the vast freshwater Lake Bungunnia, formed by earth movements blocking the river near Swan Reach in South Australia. Deep clays from the lake are revealed in cliffs around Chowilla. The lake drained away about 600,000 years ago. In 2010, the Murray system was receiving only 58% of its natural flow due to irrigation takes for crops. The river’s health has declined since being regulated by European settlement, threatening native fish such as the Murray cod. Introduced fish, especially carp, also have taken a big toll on native species and water quality. The Murray short-necked turtle, crayfish, broad-clawed yabbies and large-clawed Macrobrachium shrimp share the struggle with long-necked turtles, small clawless paratya shrimp, water rats and platypus. The Murray supports river red gums put under stress from droughts and the Murray’s usual variable flow. Since the 2000s, dredges at the Murray Mouth move sand to keep a flow from the sea and into the Coorong lagoon. According to Aboriginal people of Lake Alexandrina, the Murray was created by the tracks of great ancestor Ngurunderi as he pursued Pondi, the Murray cod.

WITH AN ELEMENT OF SPECIAL INTERNATIONAL INTEREST, GOING BACK 500 MILLION YEARS

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN NATURE HAS A WORLD OF SIGNIFICANCE
from Ediacara fossils to being home for birds on epic global flight

Ediacaran dawn-of-life site in South Australia's Flinders Ranges to get national park protection

The internationally significant fossil site in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, described as the dawn of animal life, became part of the Ediacara Conservation Park in 2019. The Ediacara fossils found at Nilpena Station, about 500km north of Adelaide, are more than 500 million years old and some of the oldest examples of multicellular complex organisms. The South Australian government signed agreements in 2019 to give the fossils more protection, on top of their national heritage listing. That included expanding the national park, starting a Flinders Ranges Ediacara Foundation, and a deal with Nilpena Station owners for the government to buy 60,000 hectares at the site. The agreement cost $2.2 million but more than $500,000 is from philanthropists, mostly through the foundation that will promote and preserve the site. The protected site will be the centrepiece of the state government’s case for UNESCO world heritage listing of the Flinders Ranges. The fossils were found by geologist Reg Sprigg in 1946, in the Ediacara Hills –  now the name of a geological period 645-542 million years ago. Scientists have identified impressions of more than 40 species of animals on what was an ancient seabed seabed. The United States’ NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) funded research at the site to learn how life might evolve on other planets. The fossils were featured in David Attenborough's Life documertary. Nilpena Station owner Ross Fargher hoped to get more protections for the fossils after the original discoverery site had been nearly totally stripped away. 

Chicago Zoo concern for wombats leads to South Australia's Brookfield Conservation Park

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 Mallee, 130km north east of Adelaide, is now a state government conservation park of 5,515 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 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 deliver cutting-edge science by monitoring the wildlife. Brookfield is rich in wildlife, besides the wombat. It is also home to the fat-tailed dunnart, common dunnart, red and western grey kangaroos, echidnas and emus.Prolific bird life includes the vulnerable mallee fowl and Australian owlet nightjars – plus many reptiles. 

Adelaide bird sanctuary at southern end of great global east Asian- Australasian flight path

A 60-kilometre stretch of northern suburban coastline – Adelaide international bird sanctuary, with abundant estuarine mudflats – is the southern end of the east Asian-Australasian flyway, one of the world’s three great migratory bird flight paths. With at least 52 shorebird species recorded, including 37 migratory summer visitors, the bird sanctuary is important globally. Around 15,000 shorebirds gather at Adelaide sanctuary for up to six months yearly before their return journey to breeding grounds in places like China and Siberia. This includes incredible aviators like the eastern curlew, bar-tailed godwit and great knot. Adelaide sanctuary is a key feeding and roosting site for migratory birds from as far as Siberia and Alaska, passing through 22 countries. It is part of an international network of wetlands, such as Mai Po Nature Reserve in northern Hong Kong, bordering the Chinese city of Shenzhen. One of South Australia's longest continuous conservation areas, Adelaide bird sanctuary is home to 263 fauna and flora species, including significant Australian birds such as the elegant parrot and Gulf St Vincent slender-billed thornbill. Within the sanctuary sits the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park or Winaityinaityi Pangkara. In 2017, with donors’ support, The Nature Conservancy Australia helped secure the national park from 85 hectares of saltfields of the much larger area previously used to produce salt from saline ponds. This ended in 2013 when ICI’s Penrice soda ash factory closed at Osborne, opening the chance to recover coastal habitat loss but with a costly remedy challenge. 

 

 STATE'S BALANCING ACT IN COPING WITH CHANGING CONDITIONS

SAVING, REVIVING, PROTECTING SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S FAUNA:
hopeful signs for quolls, wallabies but koalas numbers too prolific

Wallaby recovery efforts in South Australia in zoos and at their rocky habitats

Rock wallabies – yellow-footed, black-footed and brush tail – have been the focus of recovery efforts in South Australia. The yellow-footed rock wallaby colonies were drastically cut or wiped out by European settlement in semi-arid areas of South Australia (Gawler, Flinders and Olary ranges), New South Wales and south-west Queensland. Adelaide Zoo has housed yellow-footed rockwallabies since it opened in 1883. Australian Wildlife Conservancy has being working to revive the species in the central Flinders Ranges by protecting a significant population at Buckaringa Sanctuary. This has particularly concentrated on controlling the threat from goats, foxes and cats in the sanctuary and on neighbouring properties. Since 2007, Aboriginal rangers and scientists have aimed to bring back the small black-footed rock wallabies (warru) to Pukatja/Ernabella predator-free enclosure on a rocky outcrop in far north Aboriginal APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjaraka Yankuntjatjara) lands. In 2017, 40 of the species – nearly wiped out by cats, foxes and buffel grass – was reintroduced into the wild to be radio monitored. The brush-tailed rock wallaby (petrogale penicillata) was regarded as extinct in Victoria by 1916 but later rediscovered. Threats remain including feral species and lost habitat. Zoos SA at Monarto is involved with captive breeding and cross fostering of brush-tailed rock wallaby joeys in surrogate mothers' pouches. Partners include Adelaide University, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (ACT), Mt Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre (Victoria) and Waterfall Springs Wildlife Sanctuary (NSW).

Overabundant koalas in South Australia prompt fertility program and call for culling in 2019

A koala fertility program in the Adelaide Hills and Mount Lofty Ranges and a cull proposed for Kangaroo Island were responses in 2019 to South Australia’s booming population of koalas, while to World Wildlife Fund pushed for it to be listed as an endangered species on Australia’s east coast. Surveys found about 150,000 koalas in the Mount Lofty Ranges and Adelaide Hills, and 27,000 on Kangaroo Island. This is having severe effects in overbrowsing. Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges agency reported 13 koalas per hectare in one area of manna gum woodland in the central hills against an optimal number of around one per hectare. This made the koala population one of the greatest food threats to the koala population in parts of the Mount Lofty Ranges. Under the fertility program started in 2019, trained staff captured a set amount of koalas one at a time, administered hormone implant within 10 minutes, and released them. This followed a program on Kangaroo Island operating for 20 years. But the state’s natural resources committee in 2019 told a South Australian parliamentary inquiry that koala numbers on Kangaroo Island needed to be culled. Koalas were introduced to Kangaroo Island in 1920 as part of a plan to stop the endangered species from becoming extinct on the Australian mainland. The marsupial population flourished. Techniques have been tried to control or accommodate koalas, including planting the manna gum trees that they eat. A koala cull was previously suggested for Kangaroo Island but the idea was dumped after  community uproar. 

Western quolls' strong comeback in South Australia's Flinders Ranges after a century

Western quolls, a creature previously not seen in South Australia for more than 100 years after being labelled a pest by farmers, made a confirmed comeback in the northern Ikara/Flinders Ranges in 2019. Forty wild western quolls (Dasyurus geoffroii) from Western Australia were introduced (with brush-tail possums) to Wilpena Pound in the Ikara/Flinders Ranges National Park in 2015, after the trial release of 38 quolls in the previous year. The western quoll, also known as the chuditch, is one of Australia’s native predators, about the size of a small domestic cat. It was originally in every Australian state and territory but became restricted to south-west Western Australia. The Ikara/Flinders project aimed to restore the species to part of its original range and see if it could, as a carnivore at the top of the food chain, rebalance the local ecosystem in favour of native species. The hope was that western quolls would continue breeding in the wild but also prey on rabbits, giving the bush the chance to recover from feral grazing. The project was another practical study in tackling feral cats through trapping, baiting and other controls. Fox controls were also tried. Dry summers and harsh outback conditions after the 2014 release raised doubts the quolls would breed. But a monitoring by the state environment and water department instead found the quoll and possum population had surged.Federal and state government environment departments partnered in the quoll project, along with the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species and Western Australian parks and wildlife department. 

Tiny mallee emu wrens get lifelines at South Australia's Monarto Zoo and Ngarkat park

The tiny mallee emu wrens are being given lifelines after being all but wiped out in South Australia during 2014 summer bush fires. Monarto Zoo in South Australia has created an special aviary to breed an insurance population for this endangered species. The zoo has been engaged as part of a wider threatened mallee bird conservation action plan. This will be the first time the species will be held in captivity and the aviary has been purpose built for the miniature emu wrens weigh around four grams, roughly the same as a teaspoon of sugar. The emu wren is also being reintroduced to Ngarkat Conservation Park straddling the South Australian and Victoria border. These were from parts of Victoria's north-west but they were listed as endangered. Many groups in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, with South Australian government support, devised a breeding program over four years to boost the birds' numbers. One of the groups involved, BirdLife Australia, faced the challenge of finding a net that could capture the little birds. The group had to improvise with large throw nets that covered patches of grass to trap the birds. The next challenge for the birds was to find breeding territory and a good insect supply to feed on. The mallee emu wren, related to the superb fairy wrens common in southern South Australia, are highly sought after by bird watchers, keen to spot the male's striking ochre and sky blue. Before being left functionally extinct in South Australia by 2014 bushfires, the population of mallee emu wrens in the 2000s was upwards of 6,000 in Ngarkat Conservation Park.

Adelaide Zoo breeding and South Australian habitat bought to save orange-bellied parrot

Captive breeding at Adelaide Zoo has a key role in national efforts to save the orange-bellied parrot, with 2019 estimates of less than 50 left in the wild. One of only three migratory parrot species, the orange-bellied parrot moves from coastal south-western Tasmania to south-eastern Australia every winter. The parrot is threatened by loss of habitat, and cats and foxes. About 40 hectares of coastal land in South Australia's lower south-east were bought by the state government in 2015 to protect the parrot’s habitat. Two properties, between Carpenter Rocks and South End, add to 50 kilometres of protected coastal habitat. The land buys aim to provide an important corridor of remnant native vegetation to benefit the parrots that migrate along the coast. Other species affected include the antechinus, the swamp antechinus and the olive whistler bird. One property — about 30 hectares next to Carpenter Rocks Conservation Park — had high biodiversity and protected the vulnerable Carpenter Rocks gum. The second property is about 10 hectares and next to Bucks Lake Game Reserve. Contributing to the land buys were the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife New South Wales, Nature Foundation SA and Friends of Naracoorte Caves National Park. Friends of Mount Gambier Area Parks, Friends of Shorebirds South East, Friends of Beachport and Canunda Parks, and Millicent Field Naturalists helped buy the property next to Bucks Lake Game Reserve. Zoos SA captive breeding partners include Birdlife Australia, Zoos Victoria and Tasmanian primary industries department.

 

First sightings of the southern brown bandicoot since South Australia's 1986 fires

The southern brown bandicoot, the only one remaining of South Australia’s eight bandicoot species, was feared lost before being photographed in 2018 in Kuitpo Forest near Kangarilla on the Fleurieu Peninsula and seen at Crafers in the Adelaide Hills. These were first sightings of the bandicoot since the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 that killed 14 people in the Adelaide Hills and 14 in the state’s south-east. But, with other evidence pointing to a bandicoot return, in 2016, volunteers began creating a wildlife corridor for them across 19 properties between Belair National Park and Mark Oliphant Conservation Park in the Adelaide Hills. Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources management board has been encouraging Adelaide Hills homeowners generally to make their gardens more bandicoot friendly with native understorey and shrubs. Of 20,000 hectares of state forest in the region, nearly one third is for conserving biodiversity. Before European settlement, mammals in the Adelaide Hills included the platypus, eastern quoll, two phascogale species, greater bilby and burrowing bettong. It still has the echidna, an antechinus, two dunnart species, a bandicoot, wombat, three possums, two kangaroos, three rats and 14 types of bats. Of these, seven are threatened at state or national level and another threatened in the Hills. European colonisation favoured others. The common brushtail possum fits into urban settings and the western pygmy possum survives. Koalas, brought from the eastern states to save the species, thrived. The western grey kangaroo also has adapted well.

THE PRE-COLONIAL ECOLOGY FACES MULTIPLE ASSAULTS SINCE EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT

THE BATTLE OVER SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S UNBALANCED NATURE
between indigenous and invading creatures and human activities

Long fence across South Australia the centre of debate over dingoes' role in a natural balance

The 5,614-kilometre dingo or dog fence, ­one of the world’s longest, was built during the 1880s from Surfer’s Paradise across lower Queensland and down through South Australia, ending west of Eyre Peninsula, on the Nullabor Plains cliffs above the Great Australian Bight, near Nundroo. Designed to keep dingoes out of the south-east of Australia, and to particularly protect sheep flocks, the fence has been partly successful, though dingoes are found in parts of the southern states. The fence helped reduce losses of sheep to predators (including wild dogs) but dingo offspring have passed through holes in the fence. Feral camels, descendants of those imported to work in 19th Century South Australia, have increasingly smashed down sections of the fence. The dingo, as an apex predator, has been defended by university researchers as important in maintaining natural balance. They argue that reintroduced or existing dingo populations could increase biodiversity across more than two million square kilometres of Australia. The lack of dingoes inside the fence has the effect of more rabbits and kangaroos competing with sheep and cattle for pasture. Dingoes have been shown to keep down foxes and cats – with benefits for native marsupials and grasses. But pastoralists represented by Livestock South Australia called for repairs to 1,600 kilometres of the dog fence, after a report to the state government showed that dingoes/wild dogs killed 19,026 sheep in 2018 –expected to climb to 26,639 at the current rate. Cost of repairing the fence was estimated at $25 million. 

Fur seals in conflict with fishing tradition and livelihoods in South Australia's Coorong

Long-nosed fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri), native to Australia and New Zealand, started creating turmoil in the South Australia’s Coorong lagoon from 2007. About 100,000 seals are all along the South Australian coast in the 21st Century after being hunted to near extinction by sealers between 1800 and 1830. Commercial fishers and the Ngarrindjeri people, traditional owners of the Lower Murray lakes, the Coorong and surrounding areas, have both been impacted by the modern arrival of seals in the Coorong. The fur seals, as apex outside predator in the Coorong and Lower Lakes, are decimating the native fish populations. Native birdlife is also under attack. The state government has tried methods to deter the seals from destroying the Coorong fishing industry. These have included using underwater crackers to scare the seals away and nets up about 600 metres long. Temporary arrangements were made to provide financial relief to fishers who in many cases are losing all their catch to the seals. A federal-seat  parliamentarian in 2019 urged the South Australian government to authorise a sustainable cull of the fur seal in the interests of the environment. The depth of the problem was reflected in a broad working group meeting regularly in 2019 to discuss action needed. Long-nosed fur seal numbers in coastal waters fluctuate during the year, peaking over winter and decline in the leadup to breeding season in December, as animals spend more time in outer shelf and oceanic waters up to 1000 kilometres off the coast.

Ten thousand feral deer estimated in South Australia in 2019; first introduced in 1880

About 10,000 feral deer were estimated by the state agriculture department to be in South Australia in 2019, prompting a new state government policy requiring landowners to destroy any of the animals found on their properties. A deer control coordinator was appointed to warn landholders about the damage done by increasing numbers of the pest in other areas. Deer farmers have to identify all their deer more than 12 months old with ear tags. New deer farmers also have to build fences at least 1.9 metres tall to keep them in. Feral deer hotspots included the south east of the state and the Adelaide Hills but the pests were also seen in low numbers in the mid north region and on the Eyre Peninsula. Deer shouldn't be released from captivity and keepers must notify neighbouring landholders if any escape. Deer were first released in South Australia in 1880 for hunting. Feral deer have been eradicated from Kangaroo Island but a six species have been let loose on the mainland, with fallow and red deer the most common. They have become an agricultural, environmental and social pest as they invade new areas, partly due to escapes from deer farms, being deliberately introduced by recreational hunters and not enough control of existing populations. Deer eat native plants, trample saplings and rub against mature plants. They compete with native wildlife and livestock for grass, and contribute to eroding creek and river systems. They can also be a road hazard. effective disposal of feral deer is limited to shooting, with commercial harvesters available. The new policy for deer also applied to feral pigs.

Trying to control cats in South Australia's arid areas and Adelaide's metropolitan suburbs

Feral cats have spread to the most arid areas of South Australia, with each cat estimated to kill up to 1000 native animals a year. Attempts to cut cat numbers in the arid north have ranged from bait trials in 2013-14 on Roxby Downs Station to volunteers shooting a record 200 feral cats around the Arid Recovery Reserve, also near Roxby Downs. That cull alone was estimated to have saved the lives of 370,475 native animals over a year. Kangaroo Island is another area targeted for eradicating feral cats by 2030. John Wamsley, founder of Warrawong native animal sanctuary at Mylor in the Adelaide Hills from 1969, led to the South Australian law change, allowing feral cats to be legally killed, by controversially wearing a dead-cat hat to a tourism awards ceremony. Another South Australian cat activist, Christine Pierson, founded CATS (Cats Assistance To Sterilise) in 1988. This aimed to stop thousands of unwanted cats being killed in animal shelters by educate the community and assisting with desexing of hundreds of thousands of cats. CATS has been supported by a network of veterinary surgeons and Adelaide metropolitan councils. South Australian laws, developed by the Dog and Cat Management Board and the Local Government Association of South Australia, for cat and dog owners and breeders have made desexing compulsory of all dogs and cats born after July 2018 and microchipping made compulsory of all dogs and cats irrespective of their date of birth. Still outside these laws is the problem of unowned cats, estimated at around half a million in South Australia in 2019.

 

 

House mice plagues a regular threat for the rural grain-growing areas of South Australia

Plagues of the introduced house mice – as distinct from native rodents or marsupial mice – have broken out or threatened in South Australian grain-growing regions around every four years from the 20th Century. One of the earliest plagues recorded was in 1872 near Saddlesworth, with farmers ploughing the soil to destroy mice nests. The mid north, around Oladdie, Mundoora and Georgetown, was hit by a plague in 1890. Parts of South Australia, including Crystal Brook and Balaclava, suffered from one of the largest Australia-wide plagues in 1917, stretching from Queensland to Western Australia. The Advertiser in Adelaide in June 1917 reported on the Crystal Brook mice invasion with “Mr F.G. England … conducting operations under the Harvest Board. (He) began work on the local (wheat) stacks on Wednesday with his double-fence trap. On the first night of operations with only part of the stack fenced, Mr England succeeded in bagging 15,400 (mice), and this morning, with the stack fenced all round, 60,000 were caught”. The two catches weighed a ton and a quarter.  Plagues of mice have been occurring ever since with increasing frequency. Loxton (1931) and Eyre Peninsula (1956) have been problem areas but other parts of the state were affected in 1994 and 2011. The federal government agency, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) conducts national monitoring for mice outbreaks. The Pest Smart website has information on mouse activity across Australia. Poison baiting of mice with registered products is allowed by farmers. 

Bool Lagoon in disputed role as hunting reserve and conservation area on international listing

Bool Lagoon on South Australia’s Limestone Coast has been the most disputed of the state’s game reserves set aside for conserving wildlife and managed seasonal game hunting. Bool Lagoon, south of Naracoorte, was simultaneously declared in 1967 a game reserve and a fauna conservation reserve. In 1972, Bool Lagoon Game Reserve was recognised under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. Both the game reserve and adjoining Hacks Lagoon Conservation Park were added in 1985, as Bool and Hacks Lagoons, to the list of wetlands of international importance maintained by the Ramsar Convention. While Bool Lagoon is officially a game reserve, in dry years it attracts many species of waterbirds, making it a frequent focus of clashes between duck hunters and animal rights activists. Hacks Lagoon is also a refuge for around 150 bird species, many of them migrating from the northern hemisphere. There are a boardwalks and bird hides at both lagoons for birdwatching. Another ecological issue is that a lot of lead shot was used by hunters in the past. In recent times, only steel shot has been allowed. Mosquito Creek flows into Hacks Lagoon, and any overflow flows into Bool Lagoon. Mosquito Creek used to continue out of Hacks Lagoon to spread out on plains near Naracoorte but is now blocked and excess water is directed through a drain from Bool Lagoon to the coast near Beachport. As of 2018, other South Australian game reserves were: Bucks Lake, Chowilla, Currency Creek, Loch Luna, Lake Robe, Moorook, Mud Islands, Poocher Swamp and Tolderol. 

Little penguins' fragile recovery on South Australia's Granite Island faces night hit

Little penguins on Granite Island, off Victor Harbor, south of Adelaide, had their fragile recovery from going extinct threatened in 2019. Experts were calling for the South Australian nature reserve and tourist attraction to be closed to the public at night to protect little penguins from dogs, people shining bright lights into burrows and trampling nest habitats.  The penguins declined rapidly on Fleurieu Peninsula from 2000. Their numbers also have dwindled on Kangaroo Island. But, for the first time in nearly two decades, numbers on Granite Island has almost doubled from 20 in 2012 to 44 birds in 2018. Little penguins are the smallest penguin species and are only found in southern Australia and New Zealand. Unlike on Penguin Island in Western Australia and on Tasmania's north coast, where access to the little penguins is controlled, Granite Island is open from Victor Harbor along a 600-metre wooden causeway, operating for 150 years. This ageing causeway was also due to be replaced from 2019 – another reason for concern about the effect on the penguins. While signs on the causeway prohibiti people from riding bikes and taking dogs to the island, there are no signs at the entrance mentioning little penguins or warning against using bright lights or how best to protect the birds. Stephen Hedges, who has run penguin tours on Granite Island for more than 20 years and monitored the birds as a citizen scientist for seven years, there could be a decline in little penguin numbers very quickly if more wasn't done to protect them. The penguins only had two offspring a year and only if conditions were perfect.

CONCERNED INDIVIDUALS PUSH FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S NATIONAL PARKS AHEAD OF GOVERNMENTS

DESIGNATING AREAS TO PROTECT THE STATE'S FAUNA, FLORA
with Australia's second national park and first fenced sanctuary

Field Naturalist Society of South Australia carries its care for the environment from 1883

The Field Naturalist Society of South Australia has been a force of nature since 1883, after Samuel Way, president of the Adelaide Philosophical Society (later Royal Society of South Australia), suggested a local equivalent of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria for keen amateurs to promote natural sciences. Formed as the field naturalists’ section of the Royal Society of South Australia, with Adelaide University natural science professor Ralph Tate as president, the society’s members have included naturalist luminaries and campaigners, such as Samuel Dixon, Edwin Ashby,  Samuel White, John Cleland and Noel Lothian. The society was instrumental in establishing Belair National Park in 1891, Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island in 1919, and Ferries McDonald, Spring Gully, Clements Gap, Piccaninnie Ponds, Monarto, Deep Creek, Black Hill, Cox Scrub, Mount Taylor, Nixon Skinner, Kaiser Stuhl and Charleston conservation parks and Para Wirra Recreation Park. The society also owns heritage-protected Manning Reserve (45 ha of dense natural vegetation near McLaren Vale), Forest Range Reserve (15ha of sclerophyll woodland of higher Mount Lofty Ranges); Nicholls Reserve (58ha of coastal scrub at Carpenter Rocks in the south east) and Tookayerta Marsh (natural swamp near Nangkita). The society continues to promote saving environment habitat and the study of natural history with public lectures, field excursions and The South Australian Naturalist journal. It make an annual Nature Conservation Award for outstanding contributions to its aims. 

 

Walter Gooch leads push for Belair national park, South Australia's first, in Adelaide Hills, 1891

Belair, gazetted in 1891, was Australia’s second national park (after the Royal near Sydney from 1879) and 10th in the world. From 1840, Belair in the Adelaide Hills had become the government farm and was used to agist cows owned by the destitute asylum, and police horses. It also included the summer home of South Australian governors (built in 1858) and the woods and forests nursery supplying trees to the public. When the South Australian government moved to subdivide the area, a strong campaign was launched in 1877 to preserve it as a national park. Adelaide businessman and Belair resident Walter Gooch led the campaign and funded a petition to parliament. He was supported by the Register newspaper, Adelaide City Council, field naturalists of the Royal Society of South Australia and many prominent citizens. Gooch arranged a large picnic in the bushland valleys of the government farm, taking potential supporters on a guided walk to show the area’s recreational values and beauty. In 1883, the government legislated to prevent subdivision of the area. Edwin Smith was first chairman of the board of park commissioners, after the parliament passed the national park act in 1891. The voluntary commissioners oversaw the park combining revenue-earning public recreation spaces and wilderness areas. Along with walking and mountain biking trails plus tennis courts and ovals for hire, the park remains one of the few relatively undisturbed areas of native vegetation in the Adelaide Hills region. Also in the park is State Flora, the oldest plant nursery in South Australia.

Samuel Dixon inspires long fight for Flinders Chase national park on Kangaroo Island in 1919

Flinders Chase on Kangaroo Island became South Australia’s second national park in 1919. Samuel Dixon, a founding volunteer commissioner for the first park at Belair from 1891, wasn’t convinced Belair was focused enough on a conservation role. He campaigned to have the western end of Kangaroo Island (free of foxes and rabbits) set aside as a flora and fauna reserve. His 27-year campaign was joined by prominent wilderness advocates, such as the botanist Edwin Ashby, ornithologist Samuel White and others. Flinders Chase Flora and Fauna Reserve of 34,000 hectares declared in 1919  took in geological monuments, like Remarkable Rocks and Admiral’s Arch, among coastal landscapes around Cape du Couedic, in the south west, Gosse Lands in the centre west end and former Cape Borda light station reserve in the north west corner. It also includes the islands such as Paisley Islet (also known as West Bay Island) and Casuarina Islets south of Cape du Couedic. Flinders Chase become a sanctuary for endangered species, some introduced from the mainland, in the 1920s and 1930s. During the 1940s, 23 additional species were introduced, including koalas (1923) and platypus (1928). Kangaroos, goannas and echidnas are still common in the park. In 2019, Australian Walking Company was given approval, despite protests, to build two-person sleeping-pod accommodation and refurbish the lighthouse keepers' cottages on the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail in Flinders Chase, along with six kilometres (cut from an original 11 kilometres) of access trails and tracks.

Agricultural land waste a prime reason for South Australian reserves to be created from 1930s

The draining 27-year fight for the Flinders Chase national park on western Kangaroo Island in 1919, meant modest successes for extra South Australian wildlife habitat waited until the late 1930s. In 1938, 648ha of mallee scrubland (later Ferries McDonald Conservation Park) near Monarto South on the Murray flats south east of Adelaide, was protected. The state government gained its first conservation voice with a flora and fauna advisory committee in 1937. The committee pushed for more nature reserves in the late 1930s when South Australia was fundamentally rethinking agriculture in its marginal cropping lands. Drought, depression and an expansion into unreliable areas had produced large areas of drifting country in mallee lands. In 1940, Peebinga and Billiatt reserves in the Murray mallee were created, primarily for erosion control but also as habitat for the rare mallee whipbird. Reserves followed in 1941 on Eyre Peninsula with Hambidge, Hincks and Lincoln, and, closer to Adelaide, Obelisk Estate (later Cleland Conservation Park) was bought in 1945. Other areas set aside for conservation and recreation included Flinders Ranges’ Wilpena Pound (1945), Mount Rescue in the upper south east (1953) and Kellidie Bay on lower Eyre Peninsula (1954). In many cases, the prime reason wasn’t biodiversity. Peebinga and Billiatt came from concern over marginal lands and soil erosion; Lincoln, Kellidie Bay and Mount Rescue, because land was worthless for agriculture; Hambidge and Hincks were seen as reservations as long as the land wasn’t needed for agriculture.

 

John "Cat hat" Wamsley founds Australia's first wildlife sanctuary in Adelaide Hills in 1969

Dr John Wamsley set up Australia’s first native wildlife sanctuary in 1969 at Mylor in the Adelaide Hills, with South Australia the only state then where such a sanctuary was legal. The former dairy site had 100,000 trees planted, with creeks and a pool. Native animals, such as bilbies, quolls and platypus, were reintroduced, protected by the world’s first feral-proof fence. Warrawong revived the bettong, potoroo and southern brown bandicoot. Wamsley was named the prime minister’s environmentalist of the year 2003. Wamsley’s love of wildlife was instilled from a childhood in New South Wales bushland. Trained as a metallurgist, he switched to being a BHP steel labourer with a second job restoring houses, making him a millionaire by 23. With a PhD in mathematics from Newcastle University, he moved to South Australia to lecture at Flinders University. Wamsley grabbed national attention at a tourism awards ceremony wearing a hat made from a dead feral cat. The controversy that led to a law change, allowing feral cats to be legally killed. The floating of Wamsley's Earth Sanctuaries in 2000 fell short of funds for its network of sanctuaries in Australia’s eastern states. Due to the company's commercial performance, Warrawong closed for five months of 2005. In 2006, it was bought by Anthony Miller, owner of Gumeracha Toy Factory and Big Rocking Horse, followed by Zoos South Australia and the Ngarrindjeri people in 2010 until 2013. The abandoned sanctuary was bought in 2017 by Narelle MacPherson and David Cobbold from Western Australia's Peel Zoo.

State government takes over running South Australia's national parks (now 22) in 1972

The South Australian government's National Parks and Wildlife Service was founded in 1972 to manage protected nature areas previously controlled by various agencies within government. The state government’s 1972 takeover of managing Belair and Flinders Chase national parks and about 30 other reserves saw a push for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to be more involved in preserving bushland habitat in rural South Australia. But the National Parks and Wildlife Service had name changes and was even disbanded while a division of the state environment, land management and planning departments. In 2018, services originally provided by the National Parks and Wildlife Service were handled by the environment and water department as National Parks South Australia. New areas continue to be added to parks and reserves within national framework. Protected areas in South Australia in 2019 exceeded 335, totalling 21 million hectares – more than 21% of the state. These comprise 22 national parks, 270 conservation parks, 13 recreation parks, 10 game reserves, seven regional (multi-use) reserves and 51 conservation reserves. South Australia's national parks in 2018 were Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary, Belair, Canunda, Coffin Bay, Coorong, Flinders Chase, Ikara-Flinders Ranges, Gawler Ranges, Great Australian Bight Marine, Innes, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, Lake Gairdner, Lake Torrens, Lincoln, Malkumba-Coongie, Mount Remarkable, Murray River, Naracoorte Caves, Onkparinga River, Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges and Witjira.

 

Adelaide business group in 1981 starts Nature Foundation SA: major backer of habitat parks

Nature Foundation SA is the largest South Australian private land conservation owner and Australia's third largest. The not-for-profit nature charity aims to save and restore South Australia’s biodiversity and has protected more than 1.15 million hectares of bushland. Originally the National Parks Foundation, it grew from a group of Adelaide business people in 1981 wanting to financially support the national parks and wildlife service. In that group were Warren Bonython, Mark Bonnin, Barbara Hardy and David Cleland, along with Jack Gitsham, Donald Jellis, Ron Johnson, Neville McNeill, Elizabeth Manley, Charles Schmidt and John Branson. Later renamed Nature Foundation SA, the group and volunteers raised funds through public appeals. The early focus was to buy land and pass it onto the protected national parks system. Twenty-four properties were gifted to the state government or land managers. In 1985, the foundation gave major funds to help the state government buy Wilpena Station next to the national park. Mount Remarkable National Park was created in 1998 by giving funds for land to join Alligator Gorge and Mambray Creek. Paney and Scrubby Peak pastoral stations are now the 160,000ha Gawler Ranges National Park, bought in 2000 by the government with foundation funds. Boolcoomatta Station near Olary became a 63,000ha reserve in 2006, gifted by the foundation to Australian Bush Heritage. Two sections of Portee Station were bought by the Natural History Society of South Australia, with foundation support, to preserve the southern hairy-nosed wombats.
 

Nature Foundation SA moves on to manage six South Australian reserves in its own right

Nature Foundation SA owns and manages or jointly manages six nature reserves in South Australia. This was a second step for the foundation, started by a group of Adelaide business people in 1981 as the not-for-profit National Parks Foundation. Initially, the funds it raised went to buying land to hand over to be protected by the state government national parks system. It also helped the government and other environmental groups buy large areas, such as Wilpena Pound pastoral station, for national parks or nature reserves. Nature Foundation SA grew and gained the ability to care for and manage large properties in its own right. Its six nature reserves are –Witchelina: 421,000 hectares near Marree, a vital part of north-south eco link from Port Augusta to the Northern Territory and into Arnhem Land. Hiltaba: 78,000ha in the Gawler Ranges on Eyre Peninsula conserves important native habitat, plants and animals, as part of east meets west naturelink . Para Woodlands: 320ha near Gawler, managed with the state environment and water department, to restore critically endangered peppermint box grassy woodland. Watchalunga: 92ha of low-lying Fleurieu Peninsula swamp at the Finniss River mouth with threatened species including the critically endangered Mount Lofty Ranges southern emu wren. Tiliqua: 85ha northwest of Burra, protecting the pygmy bluetongue lizard, previously thought extinct but rediscovered near Burra in 1992. Cygnet Park Sanctuary: 300ha near Kingscote on Kangaroo Island, using the annual KI Planting Festival to increase habitat and biodiversity.

Arid Recovery zone near Roxby Downs in South Australia's north looks at feral/native clash

Arid Recovery is a conservation research zone in the South Australia’s far north, near Rosby Down. It began in 1997 when Katherine Moseby and John Read lobbied for support to create a rabbit-free reserve for research and to restore its eco system. Starting with a 14km² fenced area where rabbits, cats and foxes were eradicated, the reserve is now 123km2, with four native species – greater stick nest rat, burrowing bettong, greater bilby and western barred bandicoot – successfully reintroduced. Arid Recovery is a partnership of BHP Billiton, the South Australian government’s environment department, Adelaide University and the Friends of Arid Recovery. All four contribute funding and in-kind voluntary help. Feral predators are the research priority for Arid Recovery’s mission to reintroduce native wildlife to the arid zone. More than 500 monitoring sites document the restoration process including annual pitfall trapping, burrow monitoring, seedling counts, photopoints and spoor counts. Arid Recovery’s fence design has been adopted by many projects in Australia and internationally. Ten years of pitfall trapping show native rodents have increased to 10 times inside the reserve compared to outside areas where cats and foxes are present. (Native quolls, as predators were introduced in 2018, to help control the population of the reserve’s bettongs whose success was impacting vegetation.)  Arid Recovery is on the country of the Kokatha Aborignal people who were involved in building the first feral-proof fences. The reserve works with Kokatha Pastoral and BHP as part of its feral control. 

 

Conservation parks top protected areas for South Australia's wildlife/nature/history

Two hundred and eighty conservation parks dominate South Australia’s 359 declared protected areas, covering 211,387km2 or 21.5% of the state. Conservation parks protect wildlife or natural and historic features. In 2018, they included Aberdour, Acraman Creek, Aldinga Scrub, Althorpe Islands, Angove, Avoid Bay Islands, Baird Bay Islands, Bakara, Bandon, Bangham, Barwell, Bascombe Well, Baudin, Baudin Rocks, Beachport, Beatrice Islet, Belt Hill, Beyeria, Big Heath, Billiatt, Bimbowrie, Bird Islands, Black Hill, Black Rock, Boondina, Breakaways, Brookfield, Bullock Hill, Busby Islet, Butchers Gap, Calectasia, Calpatanna Waterhole, Cap Island, Cape Blanche, Cape Gantheaume, Cape Willoughby, Caralue Bluff, Crappee Hil, Carcuma, Caroona Creek, Carribie, Chadinga, Charleston, Christmas Rocks, Cleland, Clements Gap, Clinton, Cocata, Coolton, Corrobinnie Hill, Cox Scrub, Cromer, Cudlee Creek, Custon, Cygnet Estuary, Danggli, Darke Range, Deep Creek, Desert Camp, Dingley Dell, Douglas Point, Dudley, Eba Island, Ediacara, Elliott Price, Eric Bonython, Ettrick, Eurilla, Ewens Ponds, Fairview, Ferguson, Ferries-McDonald, Finniss, Fort Glanville, Fowlers Bay, Franklin Harbor, Furner, Gambier Islands,  Gawler Ranges, Geegeela, Giles, Glen Roy, Goose Island, Gower, Grass Tree, Greenly Island, Guichen Bay, Gun Lagoon, Gum Tree Gully, Hacks Lagoon, Hale, Hallett Cove, Hanson Scrub, Heggaton, Hesperilla, Hincks, Hogwash Bend, Hopkins Creek, Horsnell Gully, Ironstone Hill, Kaiserstuhl, Kapunda Island, Karte, Kathai, Kellidie Bay, Kelly Hill, Kelvin Powrie, Kenneth Stirling, Kinchina ...

South Australian nature zones declared as parks, reserves and areas for wilderness protection

Recreation parks, regional, conservation, native forest reserves and wilderness protection areas are different nature areas declared by the South Australian government, beside national parks and conservation parks. Recreation parks, for the public to enjoy in a natural setting, in 2018 were Anstey Hill, Blackwood Forest, Brownhill Creek, Caratoola, Coobler Creek, Granite Island, Greenhill, Long Island, O’Halloran Hill, Onkaparinga River, Shepherds Hill, Sturt Gorge and Totness. Regional reserves conserve wildlife or natural or historical features while allowing responsible use of the areas’ natural resources. As of 2018, regional reserves were Chowilla, Innamincka, Lake Frome, Nullarbor, Munga-Thirri- Simpson Desert, Stzelecki and Yellabinna. Conservation reserves, for natural and cultural features, were at 2018: Bernouilli, Buckleboo, Bunbury, Bunkers, Cortlinye, Cox Scrub, Cunyarie, Desert Camp, Hardings Springs, Lacroma, Moongi, Moortra, Pinkawillinie Reservoir, Poolgarra and Tola. The Forestry Act 1950 allowed reserves to conserve, develop and manage land for native flora and fauna, run by the South Australian Forestry Corporation (ForestrySA), a state government business. As of 2014, native forest reserves in the southern Flinders Ranges, Mount Lofty Ranges and Limestone Coast included Bagdad, Cudlee Creek, Dry Creek, Glencoe Hill, Grundy Lane, Kangaroo Flat, Kersbrook, Mount Benson and Nangwarry. Wilderness protection areas, to restore land to pre-colony condition, included from 2018: Billiatt, Cape Bouguer, Cape Torrens, Danggali and Memory Cove.

 

THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF KNOWING THE LAND AS CULTURE MEETS EUROPEAN METHODOLOGY 

RECONCILING ABORIGINAL/WESTERN NATURAL KNOWLEDGE
starting to mature as meaningful in 21st Century South Australia

Ngarrindjeri creation story among South Australian Aboriginal natural knowledge base

Prolific flowering of tea trees (Leptospermum spp.) on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula indicated the arrival of many fish, prompting the Narungga Aboriginal people to plan initiation ceremonies during abundant food supply. Such links to daily life were part a belief system developed by Aboriginal (Anangu) culture in South Australia tracked back at least 50,000 years. Aboriginal natural knowledge was seasonal. It was read in the sky. Aboriginal natural knowledge – broad and particular – wasn’t written but passed on in forms of culture such as dance, rock images and creation stories. For example, River Murray (Murrundi) lands and waters are central to the culture and beliefs of Ngarrindjeri traditional owners of South Australia’s lower lakes, Murray mouth and Coorong and along the river as far north as Mannum. The Ngarrindjeri nation has 18 laklinyeris (tribes). Murrundi is regarded as a living body, formed during the creation by Pondi, the giant Murray cod, from where the Darling and Murrundi (Murray) rivers meet. Back then, the River Murray was a small stream and Pondi had nowhere to go. As Ngurunderi chased him in his bark canoe, Pondi ploughed through the land and his huge body and tail created the mighty River Murray. When Ngurunderi and his brother-in-law Nepele caught Pondi at the place where fresh and salt water meet (the Murray mouth), they cut him into many pieces that became the fresh and salt water fish for the Ngarrindjeri. Ngurunderi’s travels created landforms, waterways and life. He gave his people stories, meanings and laws associated with his creations.

Samuel (Bert) White's expeditions build full picture of South Australian birdlife

Samuel Albert (Bert) White's outstanding achievement was an ornithological survey of the whole of South Australia and much of the Northern Territory. He was the first European to see several bird species. He was central to getting national parks declared in South Australia and a noted spokesman on insects, birds and botany. He became friends with the Aboriginal people of central Australia and defended them publicly. Born in 1870 at Reedbeds (Fulham), Adelaide, White was the son of Samuel, another wealthy but luckless ornithologist. From 16, Samuel made his first big birdwatching trips, along the Murray River and to Western Australia. He inherited money and income from rents and agistment fees. He had two tours of duty to the South African War (1899-1902), temporarily promoted captain, a title he kept. For The Birds of Australia (London, 1910-27) with Gregory Mathews, White mounted major collecting expeditions, often with his wife. He travelled with camels to Alice Springs and beyond (1913), with a government team to the Musgrave and Everard ranges (1914) and South Australian Museum’s expedition to Cooper Creek (1916). He went to the Nullarbor Plains (1917-18) with Edgeworth David and Adelaide University professor Walter Howchin to Finke River (1921). In 1922, he led the adventure from Adelaide to Darwin and back, using three Dort cars supplied and serviced by Adelaide mechanics Cyril and Murray Aunger. White addressed meetings, schools and government seminars, attracting big attendances and known across Australia. He wrote articles and booklets about his journeys.

J.M. Black's 'Flora of South Australia' an indispensable work in 1920s by gifted amateur

John McConnell Black published The Flora of South Australia, with his own line drawings, in 1922-29, after decades working in South Australian journalism. Born in Scotland, his education included Taunton’s College School (training ground for many natural scientists) and a commercial trade school in Dresden, Germany. He worked in banking before migrating in 1877 to South Australia with his widowed mother, sister and brother. Unable to find bank work in Adelaide, Black in 1878 tried wheat farming in saltbush country at Baroota, where he started his interest in arid-zone flora and Aboriginal languages. In 1883, he returned to the city and joined the Register newspaper, rising to senior reporter, and later editorialist on The Advertiser, also working as a Hansard reporter until 74. A linguist, he often used Arabic, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish (as well as shorthand) in his notebooks and diaries. He published three papers in 1915-20 on Aboriginal vocabularies. A legacy from his mother enabled Black to retire in 1903 and tour South America and Europe. On return, he concentrated on botany, noticing alien weeds, grasses and garden-escape plants near Australian towns were rarely recorded. In 1914, with another legacy from sister Helen, he worked on indigenous flora. The Flora of South Australia, in four parts, included 2,430 species, indigenous and naturalised. Black took on revising his book, aged 84. He worked for 12 years, publishing part 1 in 1943, part 2 in 1948; part 3 was nearing completion at his death. He was widely honoured for his gifted amateur work. 

Adelaide polymath J.B. Cleland giant collector/ researcher into fungi, birds, flora and fauna

J.B. (John Burton) Cleland’s botanical and naturalist studies have been called as important as his major contributions to Australian pathology and medicine. The first Marks professor of pathology (and bacteriology) at Adelaide University from 1920, he begin a study of more than 7000 meticulous autopsies. Norwood-born Cleland’s return to Adelaide revived his interest started as a boy with a gift from his doctor/father: M.C. Cooke’s Handbook of Australian Fungi (1892). In 1934-35, Cleland published two volumes on the larger fungi of South Australia –the only general Australian work on the subject. He also wrote papers on local vascular plants and presented nearly 30,000 plants to the South Australian Herbarium. His collecting included nearly 60 plant species new to science, described by John McConnell Black (strongly support by Cleland) and others. Ornithology was another of Cleland’s major interests. He donated nearly 1000 birdskins to Gregory Mathews’s book, The Birds of Australia (1910-1927). Wildlife conservation later absorbed Cleland. He was a commissioner of Belair national park in 1928 and chairman 1936-65. He chaired in 1922-68 the flora and fauna handbooks committee of South Australia that produced descriptive biological manuals. They provided unparalleled work on local, and Australian, flora and fauna. Cleland's biological collecting resulted in about 40 species or subspecies among fungi, vascular plants and animals being named after him, as well as a new genus clelandia in the plant and animal worlds. Cleland Conservation Park was named after him.

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