Mareeba Wetland Foundation & Bush Heritage

Sunday 20 March, 2005

Conservation Programs Manager Stuart Cowell explains a new partnership for Bush Heritage.

Bird watching from the visitor centre. Photo courtesy Mareeba Wetland Foundation.

Bird watching from the visitor centre. Photo courtesy Mareeba Wetland Foundation.

One of the privileges of being a part of Bush Heritage is having the opportunity to be inspired by people around Australia who are getting involved and are prepared to give money and time to act on their beliefs. These people are achieving great conservation work for their communities.

The Mareeba Wetland Foundation (MWF), my source of inspiration in this case, is a non-profit environmental organisation in the town of Mareeba in far-northern Queensland. It was set up by Tim Nevard and a group of locals in 1995 to create wildlife habitat from 2000 hectares of land that was originally earmarked for the growing of sugar cane.

Gouldian finches. Photo courtesy Mareeba Wetland Foundation.

Gouldian finches. Photo courtesy Mareeba Wetland Foundation.

The complex soils and geology of the area meant that there was a risk of downstream salinity if the sugar cane development proceeded. An environmental alternative was proposed for the land and the Mareeba Tropical Savannah and Wetland Reserve became a reality. It's now one of Queensland’s top ecotourist destinations.

The Mareeba Wetland Reserve is a unique environment that supports a remarkable array of tropical and wetland species. It has returned vital wetland habitats to the region, habitats that were lost when existing wetlands were drained for agriculture.

The reserve protects regionally important numbers of cotton pygmy geese, pinkeared ducks, brolgas, sarus cranes and rufous owls. The globally threatened buff-breasted button-quail has been seen there regularly. These are among 204 bird species recorded on the reserve to date.

Brolgas in the wetlands. Photo courtesy Mareeba Wetland Foundation.

Brolgas in the wetlands. Photo courtesy Mareeba Wetland Foundation.

It's also the site of a reintroduction project for gouldian finches being conducted with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. The gouldian finch, arguably Australia’s most exquisite bird, is endangered, with a population of fewer than 2000 birds remaining in the wild.

The MWF and Bush Heritage signed a Memorandum of Understanding in December 2004 to cooperate in the conservation management of this important regional habitat. Conservation and sustainable tourism are compatible activities for Bush Heritage, and working with MWF will build our knowledge of both non-government nature conservation in far-north Queensland and how tourism may be developed on Bush Heritage reserves.

Pink-eared ducks. Photo Graeme Chapman.

Pink-eared ducks. Photo Graeme Chapman.

We'll also help MWF by encouraging our volunteer rangers to visit the Mareeba wetlands to work on the reserve. Those wanting to volunteer should see our volunteering pages for details or register online.

The MWF is highly regarded and has a national reputation as an important contributor to conservation in north Queensland. The land under its care is in good health and in good hands and its future is secured.

Community-led conservation initiatives such as this will help to establish a network of habitat ‘anchors’ throughout Australia.They will help to ensure the survival of our native plants and animals both for their intrinsic value and for the enjoyment and education of the community.

Through its Conservation Partnerships Program, Bush Heritage will continue to support exciting community ventures such as this and learn from and share knowledge with the experts involved.

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