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Charles Darwin

Established:
2003 
Area:
68,600 ha
Location:
60km E of Perenjori
Traditional Owners:
Badimaya people

Named in honour of the great naturalist, Charles Darwin Reserve lies north-east of Perth, on the northern edge of the Western Australian wheat belt.

The sheep may be gone from this former pastoral station, but there’s no shortage of animals roaming its ancient woodlands and wildflower-strewn plains.

The history of extensive clearing throughout south-west Western Australia makes it an important refuge for animals and plants once widespread in the region.

Charles Darwin Reserve falls largely within the Southwest Botanical Province, Australia’s only internationally recognised biodiversity ‘hotspot’.

Eucalyptus woodlands at Charles Darwin. Photo Paul Evans.

Plant species diversity in the Southwest Botanical Province is higher than in tropical Australian rainforests.

The Reserve also extends into the more arid Eremean Province to the north, creating an interesting ‘melting pot’ of plant species.

Charles Darwin Reserve provides habitat for over 230 animals including mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians. So far we’ve recorded over 680 plant species. The daisy, pea and eucalypt families are particularly well represented and the diversity of wattles is very high with over 55 species recorded.

All this is protected thanks to our generous supporters.

Rainbow Bee-eater on Charles Darwin. Photo Dale Fuller.

What Charles Darwin Reserve protects

Animals: Malleefowl (nationally vulnerable), Major Mitchell Cockatoo, Regent Parrot, Australian Bustard, Rainbow Bee-eater, White-tailed Dunnart, Gilbert’s Dunnart, Robust Striped Gecko, Spiny-tailed Skink, rare and endemic insect species including the nationally vulnerable Shield-backed Trapdoor spider.

Plants: 27 priority-listed species including Acacia cerastes (a rare, wiry wattle), Nodding waxflower (Philotheca nutans), Fragrant China Orchid (Cyanicula fragrans), Wurmbea sp. White Wells (a lily endemic to the reserve).

Vegetation communities: Salmon Gum woodland, York Gum woodland, granite outcrops and fringing vegetation, Callitris woodlands, jam and black tamma shrubland on ironstone, mallee woodlands, sandplain shrublands.

What we’re doing

Our first tasks since purchase, with help from volunteers and neighbours, was to remove the last stray sheep and tackle the dozens of weed species.

Feral goats were an issue – damaging plants and causing soil erosion. They’re now under control and no goats have been sighted on the reserve in several years. Goat trapping infrastructure is still maintained in case they become an issue in the future.

Lis McLellan with Reserve Manager Jessica Stingemore and partner Dean Mowatt.

Our Integrated Pest Management Program throughout mid-west WA, targets cats and foxes. Feral predator control is critical to protect many native species, particularly the nationally vulnerable Malleefowl, other ground nesting birds, reptiles and remnant small mammal populations.

Our fox control program has been in place cor  many years. Feral cats tend to be much harder to bait as they prefer to catch live prey rather than scavenge. Several methods to better target cats are being tested, including Eradicat™ and Felixer units. Felixers are a novel, humane and automated tool that uses rangefinder sensors to distinguish cats and foxes from nontarget wildlife, before spraying them with a measured dose of toxic gel.

A Felixer unit. Photo Dr Alex Kutt.

As part of a bigger picture, Charles Darwin Reserve is helping us understand the effects of a changing climate on Australian animals and plants. It’s part of the 30-year Climate Change Observatory project – an ambitious initiative designed to see how our native species are responding to the expected drier and hotter weather.

In addition, the reserve is part of the Australian Acoustic Observatory – a continental-scale acoustic sensor network, recording for a five-year period across multiple Australian ecosystems. This world-first, national acoustic observatory produces data that’s freely available to researchers, citizen scientists, and the general public.

A solar powered acoustic recording device. Photo Michelle Hall.

The Darwin connection

The eminent naturalist Charles Darwin had one great regret: that he didn’t do more to help his fellow creatures. His great-great-grandson, Australian-based Chris Darwin, is doing just that. A donation from Chris was critical in helping us acquire Charles Darwin Reserve in 2003.

Chris Darwin with Jacqueline Courtney and sons Ras and Monty. Photo Frances Andrijich.
Chris Darwin with Jacqueline Courtney and sons Ras and Monty. Photo Frances Andrijich.

Chris explains his reasons for supporting the reserve:

“We share this planet with millions of other creatures, it’s about time we started to share out the land so the other species can survive.”

“We encourage like-minded individuals to take the leap: move from wealth to significance, because it’s something that you’ll never regret.”

Gunduwa Regional Conservation Association

This group was first proposed when the Mount Gibson and Extension Hill mines were required to provide resources to help offset their environmental impacts.

The association enables local conservation groups (including Bush Heritage Australia) to collaborate together, to achieve more, over a larger area, than they could working alone.

Gunduwa is the local Badimia name for the echidna.

Gunduwa Regional Conservation Association logo.
Gunduwa Regional Conservation Association logo.

Badimia Bandi Barna Aboriginal Corporation

Badimia people have always cared for their country. The Badimia Bandi Barna Aboriginal Corporation (BBBAC) is focused on Badimia barna (country) and Badimia badiwi (family)

Bandi Barna means Honey Ant in Badimia, which live down under the ground in the roots of the Mulga trees and are a traditional food eaten by Aboriginal people.

The current BBBAC Board of Directors comprises Badimia Elders who are working towards opportunities for all Badimia People. Bush Heritage works alongside them to help develop their Strategic Plan - the Badimia Barna Healthy Country Plan, and employ a Badimia Healthy Country Manager to implement plans, coordinate, employ and supervise rangers and ensure compliance with funding bodies.

History

For more historical background, see the Charles Darwin Reserve Community History site.

Visiting Charles Darwin Reserve

From 1 June to September 30 it’s possible to book a camping spot at Charles Darwin to explore the reserve for yourself. Visit our Charles Darwin camping page to register your interest and download the camping guide with details of what you’ll need.