|Tassie devil pen - sleep time|
What kind of future should a female Tasmanian devil have after she has fulfilled her breeding duty for a conservancy? Secret Creek Sanctuary at Lithgow felt she should be shown all care and consideration in her senior years. Trevor Evans, owner of the sanctuary, took charge of precious cargo from Devil Ark several months ago, as I mentioned in my article in the July “Hutnews”. A friend and I went to visit ‘the retirees’ in mid-July, and were very interested in what the Australian Ecosystems Foundation is doing for these and other endangered species.
|a cool shelter for macropods in summer|
All the animals are kept on 10 hectares within their own spaces, inside a well-engineered fence which runs into the ground. The two devils have big dens and a big swimming hole to cool off in the warmer weather. Lithgow is a suitable climate for them, being 1,000 metres up and therefore somewhat Tasmanian. Although they’re creatures of the night, one of them poked her nose out of her den briefly to check us out. It took Trevor seven years to get the license to keep devils. The Tasmanian government “owns” their iconic species, and this creates complications, not only for Secret Creek but for devil conservation efforts. In the Tarkine, Channing Hughes ( University of Sydney, see previous article) spoke about the unfortunate effects of this policy.
The Australian Ecosystems Foundation’s mission is to breed endangered species at the sanctuary, species that were common to our area before the advent of European settlement. They have been breeding quolls, both the eastern Dasyurus viverrinus (endangered in NSW, critically endangered in the Commonwealth) and the spotted-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus. I was thrilled when I saw the spotted-tail female, sunning herself. She was pregnant. She moved slowly away from my gaze and my camera. After hearing about this quoll for 20 years, and musing on the Gurangatch (giant eel) and Mirragan (quoll) songline of the Gundungurra nation, this is only the second one I’ve seen. D. maculatus is rare in the mountains.
|pregnant spotted-tail or tiger quoll - D. maculatus|
On our first visit, Trevor talked about the little floor-dwelling mammals that are ‘forest engineers’. Bettongs, potoroos and bandicoots were once numerous in our area. In various ways they act like little mulching units on the forest floor. Bettongs are bred at Secret Creek and also at Mulligan’s Flat in the ACT, following a very similar model. They have had remarkable success there by first building a fence, clearing the grassy woodland of exotic pests such as foxes, cats, rabbits and hares, and then introducing bettongs (miniature kangaroos).
Trevor showed us another ground-dwelling species, the bush stone curlew, inside the large aviary. It is a night bird and eats insects, grassy box woodland is its habitat. It was last sighted on the Newnes Plateau in the 1970’s (NPWS). Other species in the aviary included a double-barred finch, a white-browed woodswallow and a dusky woodswallow.
Apart from the fence, the sanctuary is protected from introduced predators such as foxes and cats by dingo urine. Every morning two honey-coloured Alpine dingoes patrol the outer perimeter of the fence with their walkers, and naturally they relieve themselves. They’re marking their territory with a urine message: “This is ours! Keep out!” Walking the dingoes is one of the opportunities for volunteers. The Australian Ecosystems Foundation is a not-for-profit and relies upon input by volunteers. It was founded by Trevor, who is currently its secretary. Briefly, the sanctuary also performs other functions such as hosting scientists. They’re building accommodation for researchers which is a miracle of recycling, reflecting the values of “conserve”.
We returned to the Sanctuary in mid-August, and all the quolls had pouch young. Over lunch at the vegan café there, Trevor said, “We are about educating people about what they’re missing out on because of foxes and cats”. The leek soup that my friend ordered was magnificent, my tea was great, and the bill was modest. This place is looking to the future in more ways than one. gLithgow has more to offer than coal-based industries. Here is one example of a local leading the way.
|Trevor with Riley|
If you’d like to visit the Sanctuary, contact Trevor Evans on: M. 0408 695 958. The restaurant can be contacted on: P. 6352 1133
|"I'm getting away from this pesky human!"|