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New fence protects estuarine crocodile habitat

Checking the crocodile fence in Ord River Nature Reserve
Checking the crocodile fence in Ord River Nature Reserve Parks and Wildlife

Estuarine crocodile nesting sites in the Ord River Nature Reserve have been separated from wandering cattle with a new 20km fence constructed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

The fence, when combined with existing pastoral property fences, safeguards approximately 1500 hectares of valuable estuarine (saltwater) crocodile nesting habitat, said Parks and Wildlife officer Trent Stillman.

“The Ord River is recognised as one of the most significant breeding sites for this species in WA,” Mr Stillman said.

“In past years, up to 1000 head of cattle have been observed grazing within the boundary of the nature reserve.

“On a number of occasions they have been rounded up and removed, but over time they have reinvaded the riverine grasslands within the reserve.

“Cattle trample and disturb species like crocodiles that live or nest at ground level.

“They also degrade wetland habitats generally by altering vegetation composition, fouling water bodies, spreading weeds, denuding soils, increasing runoff and erosion and facilitating the intrusion of saltwater into critical freshwater habitats.” 

Mr Stillman said a fence was considered the best long-term strategy for reducing cattle incursions into the reserve and reversing the impacts caused by them.

“As part of the department’s Remote Regions Nature Conservation Program, Parks and Wildlife staff from the Warren region travelled to the north of the State to assist East Kimberley staff, including Miriuwung Gajerrong rangers, with the fence-building project,” he said.

“Construction began in the 2012 dry season after securing a Federal Government Caring for our Country grant and was completed earlier this year.”

Mr Stillman said crocodile spotlight surveys conducted in the Ord River area since 1987 as part of a long-term population monitoring program would continue in 2014.

“This will show us whether there has been an increase in estuarine crocodiles in the Ord River Nature Reserve since cattle have been excluded,” he said.

Estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act.

They live in coastal rivers and creek systems, and often occur in open sea and around islands. Estuarine crocodiles also move inland along major rivers, floodplains, billabongs and into freshwater, rivers, creeks and swamps.

 

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Last modified on Thursday, 23 October 2014 09:13