The semi-arid and arid rangelands of Australia have experienced an alarming trend of extinctions and declines of native animals, mainly due to feral cats, foxes and large bushfires. Matuwa (Lorna Glen), a 240,000 ha former pastoral lease managed by Parks and Wildlife and the Wiluna Aboriginal Community, is the site of a nationally important wildlife conservation program that aims to reverse this trend by controlling feral animals, managing bushfires and re-introducing eleven mostly rare and endangered animal species that once occurred in the region. Rangelands Restoration involves Parks and Wildlife staff from the Goldfields Region and the Science and Conservation Division, the Wiluna Aboriginal Community, local and international universities, ecotourism ventures and volunteers. The project is making a significant contribution to the conservation of many of Australia’s rare and unique fauna as well as delivering local Aboriginal community and cultural benefits. The project is funded by Parks and Wildlife and the Gorgon Gas Project – Fauna Translocations off-set funds.
Since the department acquired the property in 2000, windmills have been decommissioned, stock have been removed and a network of wildlife monitoring sites installed. Feral cat, fox, wild dog and feral camel control has been underway since 2005. An electrified boundary fence has been constructed to keep out stock and feral camels, and a bushfire management plan is being implemented.
Native fauna reintroductions commenced in 2007 and free ranging bilbies and brushtail possums are now re-established. An ability to control feral cats is pivotal to the long term success of the program. Annual aerial baiting using a cat bait developed by Parks and Wildlife scientists has successfully reduced, but not eradicated, feral cats. Some native animals, such as bilbies and brushtail possums, are able to persist with low densities of feral cats, but others, such as boodies and mala, are readily predated by even low levels of cats. For this reason, an 1100 hectare feral predator proof enclosure has been constructed at Matuwa to enable reintroduced animals to acclimatise to local conditions and to provide a secure site for species that are vulnerable to even low cat densities. Since 2010, golden bandicoots and boodies from Barrow Island, and Shark Bay mice and mala from the Montebello Islands have been released into the enclosure, and populations of these species are increasing.