The feral impact

Since European settlement Australia has gradually become home to an array of introduced animals such as camels, pigs, cats, rabbits, goats and cattle. On my travels across the country I’ve accepted these animals as ‘the norm’. Cattle stations span alongside most of the roads we travel and ‘critter cam’ quite regularly picks up a passing bunny in the dark of the night. However since travelling through South Australia’s outback tracks I’ve become newly aware of the detrimental effect the introduced ‘feral’ animals have been having on australian native species. Australia has the world’s worst mammalian extinction records. Since 1788, 21 species have gone extinct in Australia and its territories. In very basic terms introduced species have been gradually destroying native animals habits, water and food sources and gradually obliterating the animals themselves.

Cattle trampling through natural springs at Mulorina Station

Cattle trampling through natural springs at Mulorina Station

South Australia’s Oodnadatta track is known for its series of ‘mound springs’, water which literally spurts out the ground from the underground Great Artesian Basin. In remote desert country these springs are the source of life for native animals. By 1858 explorer John McDouall Stuart relied on the springs to water his horses as he travelled across the continent. He marvelled at the flowing and bubbling streams of water and the pastoralists soon followed in his footsteps using the springs to feed their cattle. By 1860 one of these springs, Hergott Springs near Maree, was visited by the the SA Governor Macdonell who, expecting paradise ,merely ‘ looked in dismay at the ruination before him. The clear pools Stuart had described were now a morass of mud…a herd of cattle floundering in the mud’. He forced the landowners to erect fences to protect what was left of the springs. Today there is still only a small pool of stagnant water there encircled by the trampling hoofmarks and a key source of water for native wildlife is pretty much non existent.

 

Hergott Springs. Once a bubbling stream of freshwater. Now a stagnant damaged pond.

Hergott Springs. Once a bubbling stream of freshwater. Now a stagnant damaged pond.

Old, broken down fencing that must have once been and attempt to protect Hergott Springs from cattle

Old, broken down fencing that must have once been and attempt to protect Hergott Springs from cattle and other animals

 

Birdlife is dependent on healthy waterholes (Coward Springs, SA)

Birdlife is dependent on healthy waterholes (Coward Springs, SA)

This is a long winded story to tell and this is not the place to write it. What i’ve written only scratches the surface but I truly don’t believe most Australians are even aware of the fragile state of many of Australia’s native fauna and flora. It’s time we all did.

Arkaroola has demonstrated how destocking and introducing conservation activities has brought back the yellow footed rock wallaby in healthy numbers.

Arkaroola has demonstrated how destocking and introducing conservation activities has brought back the yellow footed rock wallaby in healthy numbers.

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