Land, bird, smoke and man
Prescribed burns on Pilungah and Ethabuka reserves, Wangkamadla Country, prepare the landscape for bushfire season and enhance biodiversity.Read More
In July 2021 the Wangkamadla people’s rights to over 2.9 million hectares of their country were formally recognised in a native title determination. To celebrate, we renamed Cravens Peak Reserve as Pilungah Reserve. This was agreed on through close consultation with the Wangkamadla community.
The original proposal for a Munga-Thirri – Simpson Desert National Park included Pilungah. It protects gibber plains, red sandy dune fields, semi-permanent waterholes, Coolabah woodlands, and one of the richest reptile assemblages on earth.
While marginal and unpredictable for production, the relatively moist and fertile dune swales and temporary waterbodies are an important oasis for many desert animals that retreat in the dry times from the desert proper.
Our protection of Ethabuka and Pilungah gives the desert back its fringe and a refuge for wildlife against the harshest conditions.
The northern summer rains brush the northern edge of the Simpson Desert, the southern winter rains just brush the south. Erratically, huge systems douse the lot.
A large number of regional and international migrant waterbirds follow the rains to make the most of the sudden burst of productivity.
The plants are patient. The spinifex waits decades and the seeds of hundreds of short-lived wildflowers rest under the sand.
The Gidgea and Ironwood will wait a century or two to successfully set a new generation.
The soft edges of dunes run into large sandy plains and the low, rugged Toko and Tooma ranges, which are rich with fossils 500 million years old. The Mulligan River snakes along the north-eastern boundary of the reserve.
All this has been protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
Pilungah is a hot bed for reptiles, including the Woma, a rare desert python that has become extinct across a third of its former range. It also protects:
Plants: Pituri, Mulga, Coolabah, Red-bud Mallee.
Vegetation communities: Hummock (spinifex) grassland, Mallee, Mitchell-grass plains, Gidgee woodland.
Pilungah has buildings, bores and hundreds of kilometres of fences and tracks to maintain. Surrounded by farmland, its boundaries have to be maintained and stock incursions responsibly managed.
We’re also working with The University of Sydney’s Desert Ecology Research Group who are researching control techniques for feral predators such as cats and foxes. Feral camels from the desert to the south must also be controlled.
While the weed list is small, there’s some weed control work and we’re vigilant on new intruders.
Large-scale and intense wildfires have become an unfortunate characteristic of Australia’s arid zones since the removal of traditional Aboriginal fire-stick farming.
They’re particularly problematic after big wet seasons, which massively increase plant growth – especially highly flammable grasses such as Spinifex.
In the past such growth was kept under control by the Wangkamadla people, who regularly burnt the area as part of their land management.
Our staff use similar patterns of ‘fire-stick’ farming in specific areas to create a ‘mosaic of burns’ designed to encourage new growth and act as fire breaks. Wildfires can seriously affect populations of small native mammals, so fire management is critical.
With cattle removed and damage from feral camels and horses reduced, we’re seeing rapid improvement in the Mitchell grass plains and wetland areas.
We’re also seeing regeneration of the Gidgee and Mulga woodland vegetation between the dunes. This has led to increases in the numbers of small mammals.
Satellite images have shown plant cover and productivity in the swales between dunes and on the slopes of the ranges is higher than surrounding properties and measurably improved.
The Wangkamadla people have a long-standing connection to this land, with rock paintings and significant sites scattered across the reserve. It 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 for stone knives, seashells and even dugong-tusk daggers.
We're working closely with the Wangkamadla people to identify and learn about important cultural values.
The purchase of Pilungah Reserve was made possible with funds from the Commonwealth’s National Reserve System Program, as well as our generous supporters.
The 2021/22 La Nina has brought significant rainfall to the eastern seaboard of Australia, while the west has seen below average conditions. Here are some weather highlights from the first few months.Read More
When bushfires burn through the spinifex plains on Ethabuka and Pilungah reserves, arid species find refuge in Gidgee woodlands that are as vital to their survival as they are threatened.Read More
A new report published last week highlights 19 ecosystems on land and sea country that are unravelling due to pressures from climate change and human impacts. The Georgina Gidgee woodlands of central Australia is one of them.Read More
I have lots of favourite spots on Cravens Peak and they’re all places that make me feel strong and happy, and connected to the country that I live on. One of those places is S-Bend Gorge; I never fail to feel completely embraced when I’m at S-Bend.Read More
An inside look into what it takes to capture a feature story about a Bush Heritage reserve. Mount Isa's low peaks are still visible behind us as we turn our 4WD south and head down the single lane highway towards Boulia. We're on our way to Cravens Peak Reserve in far western Queensland for a feature story on reserve manager Jane Blackwood to be published in the Courier Mail's Saturday magazine Qweekend.Read More
Recently Dr John Winter and his wife, Helen Myles, who are long-term donors to Bush Heritage Australia, visited Cravens Peak as volunteers. John, Helen and their wider family make an annual Christmas donation to Ethabuka Reserve, which John first visited in August 1985 - 33 years ago! He was a member of a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services Diamantina Fauna Survey team.Read More
Back in September, Victorian-based volunteer Nathan Manders answered the call for reserve support to one of our most remote properties - Cravens Peak on the edge of the Simpson Desert. Here Nathan shares his reflections and some of his stunning images from that trip - one that he'll never forget.Read More
Deb Bisa, currently volunteering at Cravens Peak, has noted a few butterfly sightings during her stay since early November. One of these was a male Clearwing Swallowtail (Cressida cressida) that was 'netted' after a long period of windy days. This species has predominantly a coastal distribution where its food plants occur, and occasional vagrants reach inlands areas.Read More
In 2006, Bush Heritage purchased 233,000 hectares of remarkable desert country. In 2016, Cravens Peak celebrates its tenth birthday, and the remarkable people that have brought it this far.Read More