Residence for reptiles

Tuesday 21 December, 2010

This reserve was a little unappealing for a reptile in search of a home, but we’ve found creative ways to offer new reptile habitat.

If you’d walked onto Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve in 2006, when Bush Heritage and Greening Australia first bought the property, you’d have seen a lot of cleared land and a fair bit of rubbish.

Simon Smale and Angela SandersBush Heritage's Simon Smale and Angela Sanders making new reptile habitat at Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve. Photo: Amanda Keesing

Seeing Yarrabee's potential for restoration

'A conservation reserve?' you may have asked. But sometimes, all it takes to see some potential is a vision.

'There was quite a lot of rubbish on the property from old farming days,' says Simon Smale, Bush Heritage’s Landscape Manager in Western Australia.

'Old machinery and building materials were just strewn around the place.'

Lying on the eastern boundary of the Stirling Range National Park, Yarrabee is one of Bush Heritage’s properties within the massive Gondwana Link project.

residence for reptiles - frogA juvenile banjo frog. Photo: Anne Sparrow

But unlike its siblings Monjebup, Chereninup and Peniup reserves, Yarrabee was bought more for its potential and its key role in the connection of the GLink corridor, than for its current conservation values.

Despite two dry summers following initial restoration efforts, new bushland plantings are starting to come into their own, and will eventually provide habitat for species such as Carnaby’s cockatoo, black-gloved wallabies and honey possums.

Creating residences for reptiles 

But until then, animals such as snakes and lizards will struggle to find appropriate accommodation in the more cleared areas of Yarrabee, and that’s where Bush Heritage Ecologist Angela Sanders’ genius has come into play.

Henry BaldwinThe rarely seen black-backed snake. Photo: Greg Harold

Angela had been eyeing off the junk-building material lying around Yarrabee for quite some time, and was just waiting for an opportunity to put it to good use.

'One thing that takes a long time to develop in restoration areas is fallen timber,' she says. 'And a lot of reptile fauna need fallen timber for shelter.'

'I was keen to make use of all the debris, the sheets of iron and piles of timber lying around the property, and turn it into homes for skinks, geckos, snakes and goannas.'

Getting local students involved

Jerramungup students at Yarrabee Wesfarmers ReserveJerramungup student, James Armstrong said the excursion was cool because 'we got to build habitats in the bush'. Photo: Anne Sparrow

The final piece in the jigsaw was the intervention of Anne Sparrow from the Fitzgerald Biosphere Group, who invited students from Jerramungup District High School as part of WA’s Bush Rangers Program.

'After studying what makes good shelter for snakes and lizards, and learning how to treat these animals with caution and respect, the students ventured into Yarrabee Reserve with the mission of turning old sheets of disused iron and piles of timber into new reptile habitat,' says Anne.

'They were given freedom to use their creativity, as long as they kept in mind the elements that make for ship-shape reptile homes.'

And what the kids turned up excited even Angela, who was thrilled when they discovered swimming skinks, marbled geckos, a Rosenberg’s goanna, and five black-backed snakes, which are rarely seen and are a record find for the property.

This work was carried out as part of the Western Australia’s Bush Rangers program, which teaches kids from Year 8 up about conservation research and management, takes them on camps and shows them how to survive in the bush.

By John Sampson

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