What we’re doing
With help from our supporters we're tackling fire, ferals and fences as the major management priorities. Kyle Barton and Helene Aubault are our managers in residence.
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. The biggest issue with fire on Ethabuka is that it burns through spinifex grasses and old-growth spinifex (20 to 30 years old) supports greater biodiversity. This work is paying off and we’re finding more small mammals in the absence of cattle.
Since 1990, the University of Sydney's Desert Ecology Group has been a regular visitor.
Aside from training students in the desert environment, returning to the same place over such a long period allows scientists to recognise patterns in plant and animal behaviour.
It's only after observing rain patterns over time that they have reached a stronger understanding of spinifex's seeding patterns and the flow-on effects these may have on small mammals.
It never rains, but it pours
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, the Mulligan joins forces with the Georgina River catchment further south, causing an explosion in migrating fish.
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 stretching from 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.
Ethabuka's purchase was made possible with funds from the Commonwealth’s National Reserve System Program, as well as our generous supporters.