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Charles Darwin Reserve. Photo Bron Willis.
Charles Darwin Reserve. Photo Bron Willis.

Charles Darwin

Established:

2003

Area:

68,600 ha

Location:

60km E of Perenjori

Traditional Custodians:

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 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 for  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 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.”

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) to collaborate together, to achieve more, over a larger area, than they could alone.

Gunduwa is the local Badimia name for the echidna.

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 history, 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.

Species at Charles Darwin

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Stories from Charles Darwin Reserve

A Brushtail Possum at Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary, Badimia Country, WA. Photo: Brad Leue

BUSHTRACKS 25/03/2024

Possum party

Four hours north-east of Perth, the sight of a Brushtail Possum is one for celebration. It was recorded on a motion-sensor camera, and has been on a very special journey.

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Common Brushtail Possum

16/02/2024 16/02/2024

Possum magic

The once locally extinct Brushtail Possum is confidently exploring a wildlife corridor in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt, created by neighbouring wildlife reserves managed by conservation leaders Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Bush Heritage Australia.

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Sunset as seen from Charles Darwin Reserve, Badimia Country, WA. By Seabird Films Andy McGregor

BUSHTRACKS 11/01/2024

Nurturing community

After two decades of management at Charles Darwin Reserve we celebrate our impact – on the landscape and its people.

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BUSHTRACKS 13/06/2023

Returning to Country

In Western Australia's Southwest Botanical Province, when Badimia, Bimarra and Barna come together, great things happen.

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BLOG 02/06/2023

Reduce, reuse, recycle this World Environment Day

For people living in cities and towns, rubbish removal is one of the many conveniences of life that we take for granted. We pop waste in our various bins and then wheel the bins out onto the road for the council trucks to pick up. But what about those who live remotely?

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BLOG 06/01/2022

Restoration improves biodiversity & soil

Vegetation clearing for new agricultural land continues to cause environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and increased carbon emissions. But there are also large swathes of land no longer used for agriculture with potential to be remediated.

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BLOG 02/07/2021

We must heal Country together

This NAIDOC Week we celebrate the flow and connectedness of People and Country, highlighting the relationship Bush Heritage holds with the Badimia Traditional Owners of the Midwest-Gascoyne region in Western Australia.

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ichard McLellan is monitoring Sandalwood at Hamelin Reserve. Photo Shayne Thomson.

BUSHTRACKS 18/06/2021

The Great Sandalwood Transect

Across a 1500km arc from the Gibson Desert to Shark Bay, researcher Richard McLellan is uncovering the ecological and cultural value of sandalwood.

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BLOG 19/01/2021

Why walk when you can hop?

I see all sorts of wildlife every day at Charles Darwin Reserve, but it is only once a year that Bush Heritage partakes in the small animal trapping on the Reserve. And I must say it is definitely one of my favourite times of year. A weeklong adventure of early mornings, peering down into dark traps never knowing what creatures might be hiding inside – and the utter joy of seeing a native animal staring back at you. A joy only surpassed by releasing the animal unharmed back into the wild.

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BLOG 09/12/2020

Malleefowl – these birds like it hot, hot, hot!

Before I started as Reserve Manager at Charles Darwin Reserve, I was an avid volunteer for Bush Heritage – and have been monitoring the Malleefowl mounds here on Badimia Country for the past five years. In 2016, myself and a team of other keen volunteers went bush on one of the annual mound monitoring surveys and visited hundreds of potential Malleefowl mound locations that needed to be ‘ground-truthed’ after LIDAR analysis. Every year since, I have returned to Charles Darwin Reserve to monitor the Malleefowl mounds we identified.

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BLOG 30/09/2020

Digging deep to harvest rainwater

Water is a vital and scarce resource in the midwest rangelands of WA, and here at Charles Darwin Reserve we are constantly looking for ways to improve our rainwater capture. So earlier this Winter a small but skilled group of volunteers dug deep to harvest rainwater – an excellent way to save not only water but also money and the environment.

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BLOG 28/08/2020

Removing Paterson's Curse

With its vibrant purple flowers, Paterson’s Curse is often mistaken for a native wildflower but is in fact one of the most conspicuous weeds in paddocks and roadsides throughout Australia. Supposedly named after the Paterson family of Cumberoona, New South Wales - who planted it in their garden in the 1880s – the weed is now highly competitive in disturbed land, competing with agricultural crops and pastures, and unique and fragile native species. It was introduced to Australia from Europe.

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BLOG 28/07/2020

There be dragons

Children learn a lot about the world through imaginative play and what better place to imagine than at Charles Darwin Reserve. The first two weeks of July are school holidays here in WA and with COVID restrictions easing – our families have been able to visit for the first time. It's always great to see family, but to be able to share the magic of Charles Darwin Reserve with not only our siblings, but also their children, is a unique and special experience.

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BLOG 01/05/2020

Mystery of the soap stealing crow

Whilst our volunteers aren't able to get out onto Reserve, we've asked them to recount some of their previous adventures. Long term Western Australian volunteer Bob Ruscoe recounts an incident whilst Caretaking on Charles Darwin Reserve.

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BLOG 27/02/2020

Getting froggy with it

And once the rain stopped and the thunder had passed, a new noise entered the landscape — a distinctive long, low trill that could be heard from some distance away. With our head-torches on, we ventured outside to the house dam, which at this stage was filling up with not just water, but also hundreds of protruding eyes and webbed feet — frogs!

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BLOG 27/12/2019

Annual Malleefowl monitoring

Earlier this year I joined eight other volunteers to conduct an annual survey of Malleefowl activity on the vast Charles Darwin Reserve.

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BLOG 30/10/2019

Plucking weeds from the wildflowers

Charles Darwin Reserve has once again celebrated its annual spring weeding session. A group of enthusiastic weeders donned their armor and attacked the inevitable, but diminishing crops of Patterson’s Curse, Double Gees and Brassicas.

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BLOG 01/07/2019

Swept away by Santalaceae

Ecologist Georgina Gould-Hardwick writes about her time spent submersing herself into Santalaceae science at our Eurardy and Charles Darwin Reserves.

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BLOG 13/06/2019

A gathering on Badimia Country

Bush Heritage staff and Badimia Bandi Barna Aboriginal Corporation directors gathered together in the shearing shed to discuss current and planned activities on Charles Darwin Reserve, Badimia aspirations and cultural heritage site management on the reserve.

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BUSHTRACKS 22/03/2019

My happy place (Will Hansen)

"When I look at her, I often find myself thinking about the things this old tree must have seen. For hundreds of years, it has been providing life-giving habitat, food and shade for countless species.”

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BUSHTRACKS 11/12/2018

Darwin’s legacy

Fifteen years ago, two men sat on a log and talked long into the night. Their conversation would shape the future of the land upon which they rested.

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BLOG 16/11/2018

Fauna monitoring on Charles Darwin

One thing I can say about volunteering with Bush Heritage Australia is that it's never boring. And I've just had the most action-packed week that I've had for a long time, helping-out with this year's fauna monitoring surveys on Charles Darwin Reserve in midwest Australia.

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BLOG 31/10/2018

Monitoring Malleefowl mounds

Boots? Check. Gloves? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Wide-brimmed hat? Check. Shin and ankle gaiters? Check. Thorn-proof, long-sleeved shirt and trousers? Hmm... is there any such thing? As it turns out, the answer to that question is 'No' - as this year's hardy bunch of staff and volunteers discovered when we were out conducting the annual Malleefowl mound monitoring surveys on Charles Darwin Reserve.

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BLOG 03/10/2018

Ecotours at Blues for the Bush

There were certainly a lot of highlights at this year's Blues for the Bush music festival at Charles Darwin Reserve, but for me, and many other festival-goers, easily one of the stand-out, most-popular events on offer were the ecotours around the reserve.

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BLOG 27/09/2018

Move over Hollywood

Move over Hollywood! 'Cos while Tinseltown may be famous for having the Blues Brothers, here at Charles Darwin Reserve, we've got something bigger and better: an entire Blues Family.

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BLOG 10/08/2018

The restorative power of poo

This one was produced by an emu and is full of Sandalwood seeds. The species was harvested extensively but is now regenerating.

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BUSHTRACKS 27/03/2018

Eye in the sky

On Charles Darwin and Eurardy reserves in Western Australia, the innovative use of a remote sensing technology is marking the start of a new era in Malleefowl monitoring.

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BLOG 24/11/2017

Let it rain – refilling a natural water tank

This experience made my week! We had rangers Vaughan Lane and Lindsey Callow, both Badimaya men from the Midwest Aboriginal Ranger Program who are working in partnership with the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council and Western Mulga, out at Charles Darwin Reserve in Western Australia recently to clear out a rock hole. What happened next was just extraordinary.

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BLOG 23/05/2017

Sandpad monitoring at Charles Darwin

Brian Martin and Brian Crute are valued Bush Heritage volunteers who help with the seasonal sand pad monitoring on Charles Darwin Reserve in Western Australia. Here Brian Martin provides an account of this autumn's sand pad monitoring.

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BLOG 28/02/2017

LiDAR mapping for Malleefowl

As part of a collaborative project we used the latest technology – LiDAR – to map new Malleefowl mounds in the region and in Spring we went and visited hundreds of these potential mound locations.

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BLOG 27/09/2016

Blues for the Bush 2016

Delights of the beautiful Charles Darwin Reserve were shared with over 1,400 people on the weekend at Blues for the Bush 2016. This fantastic event brought together people from around WA and further afield to learn about our conservation effort in the rangelands and to be inspired by nature, amazing art, music, food and creativity.

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BLOG 27/07/2016

Climate change study at Charles Darwin

Dr Nic Dunlop from the Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) has been running a citizen science program on Charles Darwin Reserve for the past 10 years. Here Nic discusses the science program and how Charles Darwin Reserve has become a meeting place for the scientific community.

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