Skip to Content

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.

In partnership with Edith Cowan University we've conducted research into the effectiveness of ground-baiting using Eradicat to control cats. The potential benefits of this research include a better understanding of predator control operations and improved land management strategies.

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.

Luke Bayley (left) and PhD student Tim Doherty fit a radio collar to a feral cat. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

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 is doing just that.

A donation from Chris Darwin, Charles's Australian-based descendant, 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.'

Open Day and Blues for the Bush

Together with the Shire of Perenjori, and generous sponsors, we've run several Community Open Days at the Reserve followed by open air Blues for the Bush concerts.

Those attending the community open days are engaged in demonstrations and discussions about important aspects of the social, cultural and economic life of this vibrant and resilient community.

Blues for the Bush concert. Photo Dr Tony Tropiano.
Blues for the Bush concert. Photo Dr Tony Tropiano.

Then as the sun goes down picnic rugs are spread out, the BBQ fired up, the bar opened and a Blues for the Bush concert begins. Local, Perth and interstate bands provide the backdrop to this rare chance for city and country folk to meet, mingle and even dance together under the stars. See BluesForTheBush.org.au.

Culture and history

The reserve lies on the traditional lands of the Badimaya people. Charles Darwin Reserve, also known as White Wells Station, was previously operated as a sheep station. 

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


The purchase of Charles Darwin Reserve was made possible with funds from the Commonwealth’s National Reserve System Program, as well as our generous supporters.

Visiting Charles Darwin Reserve

From July to September 2021 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.