Last updated: Friday 27 May, 2016
A map showing the location of Ethabuka Reserve in Queensland.

Established: 2004
Area: 215,500 ha
Location: Western Qld, 640km south of Mt Isa

Detailed map >

Ecologist Max Tischler calls Ethabuka 'classic boom and bust country'.

When it’s dry, all the eye can see is red sand dunes and semi-arid plains stretching far into the distance.

Dunes at sunset. Photo Al Dermer.
Dunes at sunset. Photo Al Dermer.
But when the rains come, waterholes, wetlands and remote river systems are jolted into life.

Perched in the north of the Simpson Desert, Ethabuka Reserve is a haven for desert wildlife and boasts a remarkable pantheon of mammals, birds and reptiles.

A Perentie. Photo Adam Kereszy
A Perentie. Photo Adam Kereszy
It’s home to a wetland system of national significance, brimming with shrimps, fish and waterbirds following good rains. It also has one of the richest lists of reptile species in Australia, including Australia’s largest goanna, the perentie.

And when times get tough, local animals retreat to the reserve, a regional dry season refuge.

All this has been protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

What we’re doing

A feral camel amongst spinifex. Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.
A feral camel amongst spinifex. Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.
With our supporters' help, we're tackling the three ‘Fs’ – fire, ferals and fences – as the major management priorities.

Cattle and feral camels have taken a heavy toll here. Camels foul important watering holes and destabilise dune crests, while past cattle grazing caused severe damage to native habitats.

The cattle are now gone, and we're aiming to eradicate feral camels. The sensitive artesian springs are fenced off to keep camels out.

Wildfire is a threat to the reserve, but we manage the risk using fire breaks and controlled burns. This work is paying off, with areas of samphire and saltbush shrublands showing signs of recovery, and we’re finding more small mammals in the absence of cattle.

It never rains, but it pours

A 4wd convoy after flooding. Photo Julian Fennesy.
A 4wd convoy after flooding. Photo Julian Fennesy.
Every few decades a miracle takes place at Ethabuka Reserve.

The heavens open up across northern Queensland and turn the usually dry, parched landscape into a watery world teeming with life.

The Mulligan River, a dry creek bed 99% of the time, rushes through the reserve, filling waterholes, rejuvenating wetlands and turning the landscape green with new growth.

If the flood waters are high enough, as they were in 2010, the Mulligan joins forces with the Georgina River catchment further south, causing an explosion in migrating fish.

More on floods in the desert


Cultural values

Ethabuka Reserve is part of Wangkamadla country. The Wangkamadla have a long-standing connection to this land, with rock paintings and significant ceremonial sites scattered across the reserve.

The reserve once lay on a trade route linking Queensland's Gulf of Carpentaria all the way to South Australia. The local narcotic plant pituri was traded in return for stone knives, seashells and even dugong-tusk daggers.

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