Endangered animals find sanctuary

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Rare and endangered animals native to the eastern Wheatbelt now have a sanctuary in the Shire of Narembeen.

A group of local volunteers have fenced more than 400 hectares of bushland and re-stocked the area with native animals.

Many of these creatures would have originally called the region home before white settlement and the introduction of vermin such as foxes and wild cats.

Part conservation project, part tourism strategy, the protected area is now home to the brush-tailed wallaby, the woylie, the quenda and the red-tailed phascogale.

The community project, which began in 2007, has been driven by the Go Narembeen Progress Association, and has involved funding and approvals from numerous sources.

A two-metre high fence, funded by Lotterywest, has an apron on either end that keeps out vermin and runs around the perimeter of the sanctuary.

Go Narembeen Progress Association former president Brian Cusack said the project was first and foremost a conservation program, but there were plans to open the nature reserve to tourist groups.

"We've recently taken a group of school children out there and we are also looking at running night tours," he said.

Mr Cusack said the animals were tagged and monitored by wildlife officers to ascertain the success of their integration into their new home.

He said while it took many years to secure the relevant permits to capture and transport the animals into the native reserve, it had been worth the wait.

"We set out with a four stage approach. Stage one was to get the fence up - which we did through volunteer labour. The second stage was to rid the reserve of vermin, and the third was to stock it with the rare and endangered species, and hopefully we'll still have more animals to come," he said.

"The fourth stage was to utilise the reserve as a tourist attraction."

Mr Cusack said he was hoping for the reserve to house the rare banded hare-wallaby, which currently only exists on the islands near Shark Bay.

"They've tried to introduce it several times onto the mainland with not much success and hopefully we can be the ones to host it," he said.

Mr Cusack said the group had secured funding to install movement sensor cameras around the perimeter of the reserve, and two retired community members paroled the reserve several times a week.

"There are two blokes that have been looking after the fence, Brian Price and Mel Bristow, both are well over 85, they go out once or twice a week and just inspect the fence. They've been brilliant. The community spirit for this project has been fantastic," Mr Cusack said.

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