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The Kimberley Islands Biological Survey (2006-2013) was undertaken to gain a better understanding of the biodiversity of many of the islands along the Kimberley coastline in north-west Western Australia.

This survey provided detailed, comprehensive information about the fauna and flora on pdf24 of the region’s largest islands

This information has:

  • built on existing knowledge of targeted components of biodiversity
  • identified locations of species susceptible to mainland threats
  • provided baseline information for future monitoring/surveys
  • increased the knowledge base available to inform conservation management decisions in the future

Records of the Western Australian Museum

See Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 81 for research papers from this survey by staff from Parks and Wildlife, the Western Australian Museum and other collaborating organisations.

kimberley science conservation strategy

Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy

See Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy.

  • View of St Patrick Island.
    Photo © Lesley Gibson/Parks and Wildlife
  • Golden bandicoot (Isoodon auratus).
    Photo © Mark Cowan/Parks and Wildlife
  • Silver leaf grevillea (Grevillea refracta).
    Photo - Lesley Gibson/Parks and Wildlife

Why are the islands important?

  • The species living on these islands have been protected from many of the threatening processes occurring on the mainland. These islands have very few introduced animals, fewer fires and fewer weeds. Consequently they provide an opportunity to conserve examples of ecosystems that are in relatively good condition.
  • These islands contain many of the habitat types present on the adjacent mainland, and they are likely to be important refuges for fauna (including species that may be susceptible to the impacts of cane toads). Some of these islands may act as future safe havens for translocated species that are threatened on the mainland.
  • northern_quoll_augustus
    Northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus).
    Photo © Lesley Gibson/Parks and Wildlife
  • Many of the islands contain important turtle nesting beaches and seabird breeding areas.
  • The islands are culturally significant to indigenous communities in the region. Aboriginal people maintain strong connections to the islands, and all islands earmarked for survey are under native title claim.

Survey locations and methods

The survey focused on groups that are most at risk from threatening processes affecting the mainland, such as the arrival of the cane toad, and late dry season extensive and  intense wildfires. As it is impossible to sample everything on the islands, this survey  focused on:

  • mammals
  • reptiles
  • frogs
  • land snails
  • Long_Is
    Long Island. Photo © Frank Kohler
  • birds
  • plants

The survey employed a variety of detection techniques including:

  • aluminium box (Elliott) and cage traps (mainly for mammals)
  • funnel traps (reptiles particularly snakes)
  • spotlighting (mammals and reptiles)
  • active searching (reptiles and snails)
  • call recognition (bats, birds and frogs)
  • quadrats (plants) and
  • opportunistic observations (all).

Thirty one sites on pdf24 islands were sampled over four dry and three wet seasons from 2007 to 2010. Small research teams made up of scientists and traditional owners were transferred to the islands by helicopter or boat (in wet season). Logistical operations were coordinated at a base camp on the mainland.

The islands selected for survey include:

Island Area (ha) Island Area (ha)
Adolphus 4134 Augustus 18 929
Bigge 17 108 Boongaree 4164
Byam Martin 816 Coronation 3791
Hidden 1871 Jungulu 4803
Katers 1713 Kingfisher 300
Lachlan 1150 Long 1125
Mary 847 Middle Osborn 2378
NW Molema 592 Sir Graham Moore 2812
South West Osborn 1340 St Andrew 1465
Storr 1883 Sunday 1186
Un-named (west of Storr) 897 Uwins 3219
Wargul Wargul 626 Wulalam 415

Survey results

Species lists were more than doubled for most of the islands where historical information existed, and a significant amount of new information was gathered for those islands not previously surveyed.

Based on current estimates the following species of the Northern Kimberley bioregion are collectively now known to occur on the surveyed islands:

  • 74 per cent of mammal
  • 59 per cent of reptile
  • 70 per cent of frog
  • 69 per cent of bird
  • 56 per cent of plant.

Previously unknown island populations of many vertebrates were discovered, including two new populations of each of the threatened Northern Quoll, Golden Bandicoot and Golden-backed Tree Rat.

Three new reptile species were discovered and an astonishing 84 land snail species were newly described.

A significant number of species endemic to the Northern Kimberley mainland were detected on the islands. This included all five endemic mammals, almost all of the frogs and reptiles, and more than half of the birds. Among the land snails, 62 were endemic to a single island.

In terms of conservation value, the largest and most rugged islands in the high rainfall section of the northern Kimberley coast are particularly important due to their high species diversity, including many regional endemic species.

However, the lower rainfall islands also have unique species communities and some are important refuges for threatened mammals.

The enormous amount of information that has been gathered is now collated, most of which is now available as peer-reviewed papers on the Western Australian Museum’s website (Biodiversity values on selected Kimberley islands, Australia).

Data will also be made available on NatureMap.


  • Retroterra costa.
    Photo © Vince Kassner
  • Magnificent tree frog (Littoria splendida).
    Photo © Mark Cowan
  • Black whip snake (Demansia papuensismelaena).
    Photo © Parks and Wildlife

Project partners

The Kimberley Islands Biological Survey is a collaborative project involving the:

The partnership with the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) is important as the islands sampled in this survey are covered by five native title claim groups:

  • Balanggarra
  • Uunguu
  • Dambimangari
  • Mayala
  • Bardi-Jawi.

Through the KLC, each claim group was consulted regarding the project. Traditional Owners participated in all field surveys to contribute their knowledge, learn about biological survey techniques and ensure cultural access protocols were met.

Publications and resources

Information sheets

Previous Kimberley Biodiversity Audits (2001)


roadside-boyup-brookCrab's eye bean (Abrus precatorius). Photo - Parks and Wildlife

Contact details

For further information please contact:

Lesley Gibson