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.

Reserve Manager Jessica Stingemore (right) with partner Dean and Lis McLellan.
Reserve Manager Jessica Stingemore (right) with partner Dean and Lis McLellan.

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

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.

York Gum Woodlands on Charles Darwin Reserve. Photo Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies.
York Gum Woodlands on Charles Darwin Reserve. Photo Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies.

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 has been protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

What Charles Darwin Reserve protects

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

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.

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

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.

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.

The Darwin connection

Chris and Jacqui Darwin on reserve. Photo Doug Humann.
Chris and Jacqui Darwin on reserve. Photo Doug Humann.

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 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.'

Chris Darwin is one of our Bush Heritage ambassadors.

Open Day and Blues for the Bush

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

Hatz Fitz at Blues for the Bush. Photo Cineport Media.
Hatz Fitz at Blues for the Bush. Photo Cineport Media.

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.

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.