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White and orange ochre breakaways at Evelyn Downs. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
White and orange ochre breakaways at Evelyn Downs. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Evelyn Downs

Established:

2024

Area:

235,000 ha

Location:

150km N of Coober Pedy

Traditional Owners:

Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara & Yankunytjatjara people

At over 235,000ha, Evelyn Downs is around the same size as the Australian Capital Territory and is our largest reserve.

Situated 150km north of Coober Pedy in the Painted Desert region, this area was once an ancient inland sea. It's characterised by spectacular rocky outcrops with coloured ochres of yellow and white, that emerge from flat chenopod country.

The reserve shares boundaries with the Mount Willoughby Indigenous Protected Area, which adjoins Tallaringa Conservation Park. This connected natural landscape amounts to around 1.9 million hectares.

Mulla Mulla flowers. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Evelyn Downs sits on the edge of our South Australian Arid Rangelands Priority Landscape, which is threatened by total grazing pressure, invasive plants and animals, and climate change. Currently, just 8.6% of this landscape is protected for conservation.

Our management of this land significantly increases protection of the Stony Plains bioregion – an area that's under-represented in the National Reserve System.

Evelyn Downs landscape. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

What Evelyn Downs protects

Evelyn Downs provides suitable habitat for up to 26 animal species of conservation significance. These include the Bronze-back Legless Lizard (Ophidiocephalus taeniatus), Ochre Dragon (Ctenophorus tjantjalka) and Grey Falcon (Falco hypoleucos). Historically, other species have been recorded on the reserve including the Kowari (Dayuroides byrnei),  Plains Mouse (Pseudomys australis) and a species rarely found in South Australia – the Fat-tailed False Antechinus (Pseudantechinus macdonnellensis). 

There is suitable habitat for as many as 38 plant species of conservation significance, such as the nationally endangered Arkaringa Daisy (Olearia arckaringensis), Johnston’s Slipper Plant (Embadium johnstonii), Chamber’s Goodenia (Goodenia chambersii), Gypsum Groundsel (Othonna gypsicola), Barker’s Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus barkeri) and Breakaways Pigface (Gunniopsis tenuifolius). The remote parts of the reserve are likely to home many other rare plants.

Refuge habitat

The Arckaringa, Evelyn and Kulvegalinna creeks are likely to provide an important refuge for biodiversity, particularly during extreme weather periods that are predicted to increase across the arid interior with climate change. The distinct habitats found in these areas include narrow ephemeral Mulga-lined watercourses, tall Red Gum and Coolibah-lined creeks and permanent waterholes, some of which are likely to have cultural importance.

Elsewhere, Acacia woodlands, including communities such as Mulga (Acacia aneura), Myall (Acacia calcicola) and Acacia sibrica provide habitat for species such as the Bronzeback Legless Lizard and Slender-billed Thornbill.

Creekline on Evelyn Downs. Photo George Munn.

Aboriginal cultural values

We seek to work in partnership with the Antakirinja Matu Yankunytjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people to protect this valuable and culturally diverse Country for future generations. 

We hope to walk side by side with Traditional Owners in caring for Country, including developing access and cultural site management protocols.

Rocky breakaway. Photo George Munn.

What we’re doing

The reserve comes with two residences – the Evelyn Downs homestead area and the Copper Hills homestead. Infrastructure includes renewable power systems at both homesteads, and a range of plant and machinery that's typical of a large working cattle station of this scale. Maintaining facilities will be critical for our resident and visiting staff to deliver our conservation work.

Since the reserve is located outside the South Australian Dog Fence, it presents a chance to explore management approaches in a landscape where dingoes roam as natural predators. Its proximity to Bon Bon Reserve, with comparable size and similar ecosystems, means we can investigate the importance of this species both ecologically and culturally.

One of the biggest challenges at Evelyn downs is the potential for drought and dehydration to have severe impacts due to changes to the natural water system and grazing pressure. 

We'll work to manage and mitigate this risk by actively restoring natural water movement, as we've done at our Boolcoomatta and Bon Bon Reserves.

Port Lincoln Ringneck Parrot. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

The reserve was previously managed for agriculture, so removing stock is our first priority. The impact of grazing includes preventing the regrowth of long-lived perennial species, particularly around water points. A staged approach to minimising the availability of artificial water in the landscape will be a priority, and will also help restore the natural balance.

We expect a range of feral animals will need to be controlled, including cats, foxes, donkeys, horses and camels. Importantly, there are very few weed infestations, aside from a small area of Buffel grass and a restricted area of Prickly acacia.

The long-term goal for the reserve will be to restore habitat complexity. This will enhance refuges available for the native species.  

These refuges within the landscape will provide critical support to native species through the increasing heatwaves and extended drought conditions predicted due to climate change

Species at Evelyn Downs

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