Conserving a patch of paradise at World's End

Conserving a patch of paradise at World's End

From the outside, it might appear that World’s End Conservation Pty Ltd’s 940-hectares of privately-owned land is just a ‘scrubby’ block without much going on inside the gate.

But delve in just a little deeper, and you will learn that the property - located about two hours north of Adelaide, between Robertstown and Burra - is a sanctuary to a plethora of native plants and animals. And behind the scenes, caring, building and returning the natural landscape is a passionate group of shareholders, scientists and volunteers.

Wendi Avery is one of the 45 shareholders, and her enthusiasm for their ‘little piece of paradise’ is infectious.

“There’s so little native vegetation left in that area – we probably have a significant amount of what’s left, of really beautiful, intact land – so it’s incredibly important, and we’re very keen to keep putting lots of time and energy into it,” she said.

Helping the group in their aim to learn as much as they can about the land and its resident birds, reptiles and other animals, rare native plants and its story, a Northern and Yorke Landscape Board Grassroots Grant was awarded in 2023. Part of the funding was used to bring in bird experts – ornithologists – to assist in a bird banding project and start gathering data.

A small group of shareholders has been able to work alongside the ornithologists on the project, and Wendi said it was a “real treat” to be involved in hands-on learning.

“We have used our Grassroots funding for a huge range of things, but one of the most interesting has been the bird banding,” she said. “Over three days, we trapped 61 individual birds, 15 different species. They ranged from tiny little pardalotes and thorn bills to hooded robins and trillers. Occasionally we’d catch a big bird, like a common bronze wing or rainbow bee eater, and even a white-winged chough, which was amazing.”

Conserving a patch of paradise at World's End

Ornithologists carefully determined age, gender and nesting history of the birds to build up data to begin tracking trends. Working alongside them, the shareholder volunteers have been watching and learning, and were given the rewarding job of releasing the birds back into nature.

Wendi said early trends were showing that the type and number of birds at the World’s End property was, perhaps unsurprisingly, closely aligned with the seasons.

“For instance, you’ll get more honey eaters when there are lots of eucalypts flowering,” she said. “We’ve learned so much from watching the bird surveyors work. Incredible little tell-tale signs about what the birds are up to – like if they’re sitting on eggs, they’ll have a little bare patch on their tummies where the bird has plucked its feathers so the eggs are sitting on bare, warm, moist skin.

“The ‘citizen science’ that we’ve been able to tap into because of the Grassroots Grants funding has meant that the more we learn, the more we love and appreciate them and want to look after them. It’s a very positive upward spiral.”

The bird banding initiative is just one of many projects under way at the World’s End site.

Much effort is put into feral animal control – fox, deer, cats, and keeping kangaroo numbers at manageable levels- and feral plant control, including the noxious perennial weed, horehound. It means that native plants and animals have less competition and more opportunity to thrive.

“We’ve done an incredible job of cleaning up major infestations of weeds, such as horehound, in some fairly rugged, stony country amongst hills of up to 500-metres height,” Wendi said. “On our flatter, more open areas, we have very rare Lomandra Irongrass grasslands. “We also have a very special, rare Acacia spilleriana, which only grows around this area. We probably own about 20 per cent of the land containing this spilleriana, so it’s really important for us to maintain that because there’s just not much of it around.”

Wendi said the property was home to a variety of native animals – echidnas, wombats, kangaroos, euros, birds, and a dunnart has even been spotted by reptile surveyors who have also tracked a wide range of goannas, snakes, lizards, geckos, skinks, and bearded dragons.

Conserving a patch of paradise at World's End

Four different species of bat have been found at the property, including one that lives in the hollows of rocks. The group is keen to add a water survey down the track, to see what lives in the one permanent water pool on the property. Data collected in this special little part of the state is registered on national data bases, ensuring the information is shared with others across the world.

While the core group of shareholders from all over South Australia is passionate about being hands-on at the property – including regular, monthly working bees – the wider public is occasionally invited in to help with conservation projects. Initiatives such as building pygmy possum boxes and bat boxes have been well-supported by nature-lovers wanting to get involved.

Bush tucker walks on the property with local Ngadjuri have also generated great interest, and Wendi said the shareholders were keen to continue to build on these partnerships.

“It’s Ngadjuri Country so it’s very special to the Ngadjuri people, and we just love it, everyone involved loves it,” she said. “It’s quite a magical, very beautiful place.”