Securing the future for Australia’s wildlife

Nestled up high in the beautiful heritage-listed Barrington Tops is the last hope for some of Australia’s most threatened species, Aussie Ark.

Aussie Ark was established in 2011 as ‘Devil Ark’, with a focus on saving the iconic Tasmanian devil from extinction, but its role has expanded into creating a long-term future for a number of threatened Australian species. In addition to breeding programs, Aussie Ark includes wild sanctuaries to conserve Australia’s native wildlife, free from unnatural predation. Its spectacular landscape preserves an island of intact highland forest that’s surrounded by land long-since cleared for grazing. President Tim Faulkner has been a part of the project from its inception in 2010 and in 2015 Australian Geographic honoured him with their prestigious Conservationist of the Year Award in recognition of his efforts. Of its humble beginnings Tim says, “Devil Ark was launched on 18th January 2011 with the arrival of 44 founder devils. It was initially set on 500 hectares and located at an altitude of 1,350 metres in the heritage listed Barrington Tops.

The project aimed at providing large fenced areas for social groups of Tasmanian devils to express natural behaviours, reproduce naturally, and optimise genetic diversity while being cost-effective.” Devil Ark was so successful that by 2013 it held over 150 Tasmanian devils: 52% of the mainland population. As of December 2019, over 400 joeys have been bred into the program. Clearly the innovative approach was working and in 2017 the facility expanded to include a further six threatened species: the Eastern quoll, bandicoots, long-nosed potoroos, brush-tail rock wallabies, parma wallabies and the Manning River turtle.

To reflect the broader remit, Devil Ark transitioned into Aussie Ark. Going wild (again) Aussie Ark is New South Wales’ largest independently owned and operated conservation organisation and now home to seven keystone species once found in the Barrington Tops of New South Wales. The vision of Aussie Ark is to establish a robust insurance population of Australia’s threatened, native mammal species suitable for semi-wild release into large, predator proof fenced sanctuaries in the Barrington Tops and eventual reintroduction to the wild. The sanctuary extends far beyond its focussed species. “Aussie Ark also protects an abundance of native fauna already existing within its boundaries including 50 species of mammals, 278 species of birds, 42 species of reptiles and 18 species of frogs,” says Tim.

“The secret to Aussie Ark’s success is the commitment to practical, outcome based conservation efforts informed by world class science for Australian wildlife. Our methods are proven to be more effective and cost efficient than any other establishment in Australia.”

Tim Faulker, President Aussie Ark

Besides building insurance populations, Aussie Ark’s core activities include fire management, feral cat and fox exclusion, feral herbivore control, weed eradication, bush rejuvenation, field science programs and wildlife translocations. Aussie Ark is also the only organisation dedicated to restoring the flora and fauna of the Great Dividing Range back to its pre-European settlement state. Aussie Ark’s most recent project is aptly titled Koala Ark and was launched in response to the devastating loss of koalas in recent bushfires. While a final count has yet to be established, experts believe that tens of thousands of koalas have been lost in this season’s fires.

Photography courtesy of Aussie Ark

Read more in the Autumn issue of Hunter&Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.